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Prince of Pot bids farewell to followers

With a month left to go before serving a U.S. prison term, marijuana activist Marc Emery is spending some of his last days of freedom on a farewell tour of Canada.

Last night he stopped in his hometown Vancouver, the 23rd stop of a 30-city tour launched in early July. Emery, who was charged with selling marijuana seeds in the U.S., told The Tyee he wanted to give followers their "marching orders" and get them motivated before his incarceration.

Last year Emery's lawyers cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors that could see him serving a minimum of five years in jail, instead of being extradited to stand trial and face a minimum ten-year sentence. A judge will sentence Emery and tell him where he will serve his time in September.

Speaking without notes, Emery talked last night about the health benefits of marijuana and rattled off a list of legal and ubiquitous substances that are arguably more harmful: alcohol, sugar, salt and cigarettes.

He discussed the significant economic impact of the marijuana industry in British Columbia (which is estimated to generation $6 to $7 billion annually) and focused on his own undeniably important role in promoting and marketing "BC Bud" to the rest of the world.

With forestry and fishing on the slump, marijuana cultivation is what keeps many rural communities from becoming "ghost towns" Emery said.

Emery veered off at times on questionable tangents, remarking at one point that the Chinese and Swedish aren’t as inventive as North Americans because they don’t smoke as much pot.

But for the most part, the approximately 75 people in attendance were right on message with him as he extolled the benefits of marijuana, and marijuana culture, to British Columbia and Vancouver.

"Marijuana doesn't kill anybody, but we're hunted down like the most harmful pariahs on earth. There's not even any explanation about what the benefit of criminalizing marijuana is to society," Emery said. "What do we do, exactly, that makes us so dangerous? That's a big mystery."

Emery said he doesn't feel fear about going to jail (he has been incarcerated before on marijuana-related charged) but said loneliness and boredom would likely be the biggest obstacles. He said he intends to learn French and Spanish, and write his memoirs.

"Keeping busy is the key thing," Emery said. "It doesn't help to be sentimental in jail."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee./em>

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