Then and Now: A Decade of Difference in Marijuana Activism

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For many political activists, a change in marijuana policy is both overdue and seemingly coming too slowly. It’s worth remembering, however, just how far things have come in roughly a decade. Marc Emery’s experience serves as an example of how things have quickly evolved on cannabis policy.

Then: An Antagonistic Approach
In 2002, the United States was advocating hard for its War on Drugs, going so far as to give promotional speeches for its policies in a major Canadian city. Canadian Marc Emery wasn’t having it, and decided instead of setup a table at the event advocating for the opposite of almost everything the U.S. stood for. This followed Emery’s long reputation for distributing pro-cannabis literature counter to Canadian policy, and numerous other activities that were designed to antagonize government officials. Emery spent his time at the event heckling the speaker, representing what was then the most common way to gain attention for the legalization movement. Eventually, Emery’s actions garnered him a bit too much attention by Canadian authorities and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, leading to his arrest on conspiracy charges.

Now: Major Leaps toward Substantive Change
In the current era, Marc Emery’s charges are widely considered to be tenuous and his punishment of prison time to be exceedingly harsh. Released from prison and back in Canada, Marc Emery now leads a movement that has achieved substantive political and legal change in dozens of countries. Medical uses, recreational uses, and changed global policies on the drug are now either enacted or pending. Work toward those ends is political, not antagonistic, and represents a sea change for those with a stake in the outcome.