Sun TV host Michael Coren asked Emery about recent media reports criticizing Stephen Harper and the Conservatives' proposed crime bill, C-10, which would give pot growers more jail time than "someone who rapes a toddler or forces a five-year-old to have sex with an animal."
"Is this really true or is this just a campaign that you're running?" Coren asked Emery.
"It is true if you look at the mandatory minimums being offered for drug offences and marijuana offences," Emery responded. "This government is really cracking down on the marijuana culture and marijuana growers."
And it is absolutely true: Ethan Baron, writer for Postmedia News, writes in his September 2011 article "Marijuana Growers to Face More Jail Than Child Rapists Under Harper's New Omnibus Bill" that producing "six to 200 pot plants nets an automatic six-month sentence, with an extra three months if it's done in a rental or is deemed a public-safety hazard. Growing 201 to 500 plants brings a one-year sentence, or 1 1/2 years if it's in a rental or poses a safety risk."
Baron points out that Conservative legislation gives "one-year mandatory minimums for sexually assaulting a child, luring a child via the Internet or involving a child in bestiality", which are "lighter automatic sentences than those for people running medium-sized grow-ops in rental property or on someone else's land."
The issue resurfaced in mainstream Canadian media this week after new information was revealed by a Canadian Press request for cabinet records. The request, according to a CP article titled "Stiffer Sentence for Pot Than Pedophilia Caught PM's Eye", "turned up a single document -- much of it blacked out under a broad, discretionary exemption in the Access to Information Act."
The October 11, 2011 "memorandum for the prime minister", marked "secret", was intended to inform Harper about sentencing provisions "in light of recent criticism in the media." CP said "about half" of the one-page document was "blacked out using sweeping exemptions that cover 'advice or recommendations' and 'an account of consultations or deliberations.'"
"If Harper is so sure that this is a good thing for Canada," Emery said, "why aren't they providing the evidence? Why are the reports blacked out? What is the motivation behind these laws when all the science and all the studies and all the experts, and even conservatives throughout the United States, say this is the wrong direction and a waste of billions of dollars?"
Emery told Coren the Conservatives are "out of touch with Canadians", noting recent polls showing 66% of Canadians (and even 59% of Conservative voters) want it legalized or decriminalized.
"They understand that prohibition hasn't worked," Emery said, "making tougher laws and putting people in prison isn't reducing the problems. I agree that violent dangerous criminals and organized crime are a threat and should be dealt with, but the only way to do so is to end prohibition, take the money away from them, bring it into the legitimate economy, stop wasting taxpayer dollars going after an endless battle, and we'll see a solution to so many of the problems associated with the drug trade today."
The activist said the new Conservative crime policies target small-time, non-violent pot growers, despite government claims the legislation will only target big-time drug dealers.
"Consider that most Canadians aren't going and calling up their local Hell's Angels dealer to get their weed," Emery said. "Millions of Canadians smoke marijuana and they do so peacefully, and they either get it from a friend, somebody who grows a couple plants, or somewhere through the chain, but people aren't really buying off dealers from the street. Millions of Canadians get it from people who are growing a few plants in their basement."
Emery said the harsh new laws are needed by Prime Minister Harper and his government to fill the ever-expanding prison system, which Conservatives have promised to spend additional billions on expanding further while hiding the true costs of the legislation.
"These prisons that are being built across Canada," she said, "we know there are tens of thousands of prison beds being opened up, and we don't have tens of thousands of Bernardos or Willie Picktons out there. There's a lot of Canadians who grow a couple plants and sell it to their friends who are facing prison under these laws. We've seen it happen in the US and we know that private prison corporations lobby for these types of laws."
This is the second time Emery has appeared on Coren's show, The Arena, the first in November of 2011 when she was invited to discuss four former Vancouver mayors calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.
Watch Emery's first appearance on the show:
Jodie Emery is publisher of Cannabis Culture and wife of imprisoned marijuana activist Marc Emery, who is currently serving a five-year prison term in the United States for selling marijuana seeds and using the money to fund political activism.
Crime bill C-10 was recently passed by Canada's Conservative-controlled House of Commons and must be approved by the Senate before becoming law. Find out how to help stop C-10.