Emery Prosecutor: Legalize Marijuana Now

Special to The Seattle Times

By John McKay

I don’t smoke pot. And I pretty much think people who do are idiots.

This certainly includes Marc Emery, the self-styled “Prince of Pot” from Canada whom I indicted in 2005 for peddling marijuana seeds to every man, woman and child with an envelope and a stamp. Emery recently pleaded guilty and will be sentenced this month in Seattle, where he faces five years in federal prison. If changing U.S. marijuana policy was ever Emery’s goal, the best that can be said is that he took the wrong path.

As Emery’s prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I’m not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety.


126 thoughts

  1. John McKay ,
    Read this & read this again . Keep reading it until you figure it out . You & the , Meg Whitman’s of the World have created this mess of the World .Genocide in this World continues because of misinformed idiots like yourself .

    On Nov. 2, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, deciding whether to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. If the initiative passes, it won’t just be momentous for California; it may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs.

    The costs of that war have long since reached intolerable levels: more than 28,000 of our fellow citizens dead since late 2006; expenditures well above $10 billion; terrible damage to Mexico’s image abroad; human rights violations by government security forces; and ever more crime. In a recent poll by the Mexico City daily Reforma, 67 percent of Mexicans said these costs are unacceptable, while 59 percent said the drug cartels are winning the war

  2. wow seriously…you think all people who smoke pot are idiots…im sure most of the people who smoke pot are more intelligent than you could ever imagine…that doesnt mean we dont make mistakes, but we are conscientious thinkers. we acknowledge certain aspects of life that you take for granted every day. youre probably a christian, but you dont act like one. what you really are is a capitalist. you think youre an elitist, and you do whatever is necessary to pay the bills. you pretty much kiss ass all your life and are very narrow minded, considering you know nothing, at all, about Cannabis.

  3. ITS ALL ABOUT MONEY….ONE THING…MONEY…THATS ITS…ITS JUST ABOUT MONEY!!!! NOTHING ELSE!!! they can say weed is this and weeds is that, weed will kill you, weed will hurt you, weed is dangerous…they dont really believe any of that…its all money…OUR GOVT IS NOTHING BUT BS AND LIES…i mean think about it…you meet random crazy people every day that do nothing but lie to you…our govt is filled with those people…liars…

  4. Have you ever thought of a Hemp Economy.

    A Hemp System would encourage a greener earth, would produce earth friendly industries and could still meet the demands of the hungry world populations.

  5. i do gotta say though, at least a former prosecutor agrees with the harshness of the laws surrounding people who BOTHER NO ONE!!! but on the other hand, IT TOOK YOU YOUR WHOLE CAREER TO FINALLY REALIZE THAT!!! YOURE THE IDIOT!!! i guess after all the bills are paid for, then you can say whats really on your mind…but for your whole career, you lied to yourself…how you feel about that?

  6. It all sounded like a prohibition compromise from those who never tried marijuana. There were a few cheap shots and some propaganda in that article accusing pot legalizers in giving false information on the safety of marijuana and its health benefits.

    Many anti-marijuana police, politicians, and prohibitionist really do know the truth about marijuana but that is not going to stop them from keeping it illegal.

    When the late former President Nixon first introduce the “Control Substance Act of 1970”, the majority of the people knew that it was all a joke because of the listing marijuana being dangerous as heroin. Then came President Ronald Reagan who made it to a “Declaration of War on Drugs”. Still nobody took it serious until 1991, when police dressed up in military commandos outfits and ski mask and carrying automatic rifles as standard procedure. Everything changed for the worse. Tougher penalties and more anti-marijuana laws leads to more criminals, and more prisons.
    America becomes a Drug War Zone all because of marijuana being placed as Schedule I by Nixon’s hatred towards college “Anti-Viet Nam WAR” hippies.

    Please Legalize Proposition 19 and stop this madness.

  7. The hypocrisy runs deep. The laws are bad but the DA enjoys prosecuting users anyway. What a humanitarian.

  8. Just short of an apology 🙁 but i think this is the best you can hope for with somebody like john mckay. I can take somebody looking down their nose at me for consuming cannabis but not being held at gun point. Its nice to see Mr Mckay wants LEO to put theirs away. Chalk up another point for Cannabis!

  9. Considering , there are tens or even hundreds of people selling Marijuana seeds and none of them go to Jail it’s obvious Mr. Emery’s jailing was done because he was outspoken & political about his favorable views concerning Marijuana .
    Don’t lie to me by telling me otrherwise .

  10. Us marijuana smokers seriously need to grow some thick skin. Denying political allies cause he thinks you’re stupid? Way to prove him right. The major dangers surrounding the trade and practice of marijuana are correctly named here, if this man is unwilling to make serious efforts at reversing the dangers of the black market marijuana business then there is nothing dumber than the overconfident posturing some of you seem so interested in.

  11. If John McKay is truly being honest and sincere about what he now claims to believe, he should do everything in his power to right the terrible wrong that is happening at this very moment to Marc Emery. Marc is obviously a political prisoner that people like McKay wanted to persecute and then use as a shining example of what happens to people who dare defy the law – regardless of whether or not the law is a good law… If he chooses to do nothing, then I’m not sure he is worthy of anyone’s respect.

  12. Bothers and Sisters,
    Mr McKay’s OP-ED piece is not directed to this audience of the herb friendly. Please open your mind, he is writing to the majority who don’t support cannabis, the folks who see us as hippie potheads etc. When you see that perspective you can see how brilliant his opinion is stated and how he is a true friend to our side. He acknowledges their arguments from the beginning and neutraizies them point by point as exemplified by the brilliant opening, “I don’t smoke pot And I pretty much think people who do are idiots.” John is skillfully channeling the everyman who does think pot smokers are idiots. Next bold statement, ” Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety.” This gives the everyman a means to change their mind, after all if a US Prosecutor who thinks pot smokers are idiots wants change then so can I.
    Wearing rasta colors and playing Cypress Hill loud do nothing to advance our cause, that’s only “preaching to the choir” We need to be aware of who we need to enlighten, the folks who don’t attend hempfests.
    When we vocally support the Jon Mckay’s we encourage more to come forth and that’s what we nneed to end the madness of the war on some drugs.

  13. “We should limit pot’s content of the active ingredient THC…”

    Disagree with that. I think people should have the choice to be able to purchase a low-THC strain or variety. They shouldn’t be forced to have to purchase low THC grade marijuana. That will just fuel the black market more. Do we force people to only drink light beer? this makes no sense. And starting off by calling all pot smokers idiots is just asinine. Guess carl sagan was an idiot.

  14. Former Prosecutor John McKay’s publicly expressed disdain for cannabis as a real medical remedy illustrates a profound lack of critical thinking skills and a closed mind that willingly and willfully regurgitates the propaganda that has been spoon-fed to society.

    Yet even he can call for legalizing cannabis. There is some hope for real and progressive change regarding the prohibition of cannabis, given his “idiots” attitude. But his speech is also a grim reminder of how even supposedly educated public officials are the root cause of inertia regarding changing woefully unjust laws. Barring some unforeseen miracle, turning the corner on ending cannabis prohibition is likely to be a long drawn out process, still.

  15. Alcohol-kills. Tobacco-kills. Pharmaceutical-kills. Alcohol-$$$$$. Tobacco-$$$$$. Pharmaceutical-$$$$$.
    Alcohol-Lobby. Tobacco-Lobby. Pharmaceutical-Lobby.

    Complex message? Hardly. Do these massive industrial corporations, or other forms which I’ve left out, really give a damn about the consumer/public? Do regulators, those who are suppose to be keeping the public interest at heart, give a damn? To justify ones cold-heart in comparison to the world being cold is an excuse that expresses just how out of touch many are with deciphering our existence in totality. Can you afford to have a heart in this world? Not when there’s billions/trillions to be made. Money over life? Working for a living and being able to provide for loved ones is one thing but when greed begins to darken the eyes, hearts and souls then those individuals are the ones that are truly lost.

    In a world mostly comprised of self-serving cynics, don’t think for one second that they believe your life means more than their life or the “life” of the company. That’s right. Since an entity is believed to be animate or inanimate a corporation in itself has more rights, privileges and securities than most animate entities. If that doesn’t open your eyes nothing will. Self-serving materialistic cynics? Self-serving temporal capitalistic cynics? “It’s a brave new world.” Yeah, full of liars and swindlers. All they want is your $ and all they care about is their bottom line. If the truth has to be twisted in order for a controller to thrive you best believe that is a road that many in “power positions” will travel.

    An open/honest discussion as to the “wisdom” of why cannabis was categorized as “useless” should take place. Facts need only apply. Perhaps that would give the population of this planet a better understanding of who is leading by deception and who is striving for truth. There are far more aspects of freedom that play into the cannabis movement. Don’t let the propaganda or snide remarks keep you from seeing the truth in any situation. Process every bit of information and make finding the truth your goal. What type of person hides from the truth? One who deals in deception.


  16. “I don’t smoke pot. And I pretty much think people who do are idiots.”

    Immediately the reader knows that this individual has never tried Cannabis. So he is ignorant of the experience with which he categorically judges his neighbors. He “pretty much thinks” it’s bad for other people nevertheless he doesn’t know himself.

    It’s not a war on drugs. It’s a war on some drugs.

    Corporate fascism removes hemp from free market competition and tells Americans what their best interests are.

    Tobacco has been fertilized with radioactive chemicals since the 1950’s and subsidized by tax dollars. The most lucrative illnesses in the health care system are ones that kill slowly, like tobacco-related illness.

    Apparently it’s also acceptable to teach binge drinking as a rite of passage in this culture.

    Pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs kill thousands every year. No one has died from an overdose of Cannabis in thousands of years of use.

    The scheduling of Cannabis is unjust and unreasonable and intellectually dishonest.

    Not just a high: Scientists test medicinal marijuana against MS, inflammation and cancer

    The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

    “An unjust law is no law at all.” -St. Augustine

  17. @ #66 (I get it),

    I thought this as well while reading the article. In my head I thought “You know, maybe he’s not denouncing ‘us’, but instead attempting to reach all of ‘them’ by giving ‘them’ a vantage point that they can relate to.”.

    If that’s what he’s doing, then yes it could be seen as smart behavior. If that’s not what he’s doing, then I guess he truely is an idiot.

  18. “These marijuana smokers are idiots… but if they want to risk their lives, let them. Now, where is my martini?”

  19. Wow! I wonder how long it took this “idiot” to figure out that cannabis should be legal? This asshole acts like it was his own idea. I’d be willing to bet that McKay’s gin bill is staggering. Other than that it’s good to see old idiots finally seeing the light.

  20. I actually like this article. Despite the false statements here and there, I think a person who is not empathetic to cannabis users might keep reading if they feel the writer is on their side, and not some avid cannabis proponent.

    This article was written by someone who is skeptical of cannabis use, and can more easily reach other skeptics who are not as friendly as he, and who might hold some of these mistaken views. To me, it says, “despite these stupid ideas, legalize!”

    We need guys like this too: people who don’t like cannabis, but still want it legalized to draw in those who are closer, but not bound, to the prohibitionist fringe.

  21. Drug Policy and Human Rights

    Drug Policy and Human Rights:

    In many countries around the world, drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses – torture and ill-treatment by police, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and denial of essential medicines and basic health services. UN drug control agencies have paid little attention to whether international drug control efforts are consistent with human rights protections, or to the effect of drug control policies on fundamental human rights.

    Human Rights Watch has been documenting human rights abuses linked to drug enforcement laws, policies and practices for more than a decade. In our investigations, we have found that some governments have justified a wide range of serious human rights abuses in the name of fighting a “war on drugs.”

    6. Access to Controlled Medicines

    Unnecessarily strict narcotic drug control laws, policies, and practices in many countries also severely restrict access to controlled medicines for therapeutic purposes, thus undermining the right to health and to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment for millions of people who need narcotic drugs to treat pain or drug dependence.

    Human Rights Watch has documented how the international community’s strong focus on cracking down on illicit drug use has led many countries to neglect their obligation to ensure that people can benefit from the crucial medicinal qualities of narcotic drugs.

  22. @76

    Someday historians will look back at this Holocaust.

    The drug war and all the sub chapters will be recorded as the worst disgrace on the face of The Son Of Man.

  23. Longtime Puffer.


    It’s like pulling the right thread – the whole fabric can become unwoven. We’ve pulled the right thread on this gigantic fabric of lies, and are likely to see the whole tapestry of mendacity unweave right before our very eyes.

    The forces that [favor] medical cannabis prohibition will never lie so much, work so hard, or spend so much time and money to defeat its legalization – but – YOU CAN’T PUSH ON A STRING.

    The numbers [in favor] of legalization just don’t lie. In fact – the numbers invite foul play by the opposition. The end justifies the means – so – “DUCK AND COVER.” Let them take an aeronautical intercourse in a motivating French pastry [a flying fuck in a rolling donut]. If turn about in fair play is worth what it’s made out to be – I think it’s high time for the pot-phobic prohibs to feel the oppression for a change – just to let them know who the boss is – WE THE PEOPLE. We all know too well that they can dish it out – but – let’s see if they can take it.

    I don’t know about you Puff – but – I personally reject, with passion, “OPERATION RESCUE” the ideologues who are fanatically dedicated to imposing their values on me, and who will stop at nothing to promote their ideology and view of life, and above all else – “SAVE MY SOUL.” My belief does not stake claim on all of mankind. My blood will not be on their hands. Virtueism prevents the soul from looking at life the way it really is – [mostly] “the participation of life,” and the possibility of unintentionally fucking up royally – that’s called learning. “LIFE IS FLAWED WITH LIFE,” not to be replaced with exact, fanatic, rhetorical, man made, self righteous, virtuous rules “CREATED AND DESIGNED TO CONTROL ME, OR ANY OTHER SINGLE MIND THAT AGGRES WITH ME.”

  24. This comments section is seriously disappointing. Apparently there’s no more incrementalists left in the world because if someone doesn’t pass the THC litmus test, you toss them under the bus. Sorry but the justice of marijuana liberation cannot wait for your bandwagon to ideologically pure.


    The task at hand for marijuana advocates is getting people inside the building of legalization. It is the duty of any responsible civics to be critically introverted so of course one must always reapply themselves to the exploration of their own motives first as a person than as a part. But many of you seem to have artistically patched together an article threaded with unjust suspicion. It is as if between federal processor and people who smoke marijuana are idiots an entire collected history of police oppression, persecution, and underhanded cruelties has burst forth rewriting the page such that the words have hidden fangs and the syntax layered with secret barbs. Trip wires, and explosive, combustible malice somewhere deep in those white plains between the letters, a snarling menace only tokers would know. Somewhere only stoners would think to look.

    It is a shame that this could not have come out sooner. It’s awful that this man could not have had a more steely backbone for us and not have pursued Marc Emery when it would have really mattered. But if you’re not reading the article, you’re not giving him a chance.

  25. Calculated ,

    You hit that on the nail exactly right. I’ve only said what you said a hundred or so times or at least since I’ve been posting on NORML . Maybe your catching on to something i already knew long ago ? And these so – called Christians ( Example ; Christina Fey or Drug free America ) who use lies & deception are of this other false religion . These are the hypocrites & liars .Surely they have their part in the Lake of Fire called Hell .

    ” Satan the Devil is a master of deception ” and has deceived the Whole World .

  26. This is why i advertise this. This is a nonprofit organization dispensary website that everybody should join and support so when New Jersey finally sets up regulations patients will have this place to go to.

    Cannabinol Haven
    providing medicine to rid the pain.

  27. I don’t listen to ill-informed, ignorant opinion. And I pretty much think people who do are idiots.

  28. “As Emery’s prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I’m not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety.”

    Ah, yes. Was that a complete flip flop? He was against it (when it made him money) and now he is for it (because it can make him money). All that is missing is a video of him waving the flag and singing patriotic tunes.

    Don’t fall for it. He’s a professional liar.

  29. So am I the only one here who wants marijuana legalized just so I don’t have to deal with low life drug dealers any more?

  30. @87

    This begins Jury Nullification

    This is where ordinary people say “enough”

    How much burden must be placed on a drug addicts back?

  31. Then, will you hear me now? Follow me in your own Bible.

    Yes! God created grass, fruit, and the herb yielding seed, and God saw that it was good. Genesis I:11, 12.

    Yes! God gave us every herb bearing seed, and every green herb for food/meat, and God saw that it was very good. Genesis I:29, 30, 31.

    Yes! God reaffirmed his gift – even as the green herb, I have given you all things. Genesis IX:3

    Yes! Ezekiel the prophet XXXIV:29, 30, 31. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of a heathen anymore.

    Yes! CDXX is the roman numeral 420 – but – CDXX is a Communion with God. Commense CDXX Communion.

    And a voice from within me came, and I heard it. Thy words were received in CDXX Communion, and I did eat them, and thy words unto me are a joy and rejoicing of my soul. I shal be diligent to thy word, and never abandon the truth of its matter or the importance of its subject. I shall be faithful to my divine being, and true to my self.

    Manford Mantis

  32. Why am i the idoit? I have known what he wrote about for 20 years of the 37 years that i have been alive and smoking. And I did not have to go to law school to figure it out.

    After my court appearance for having a plant, the arresting officer told me to take tequila with me the next time i go camping. Great Advice Sir, Over Grow the Govt’

  33. In many corners of the world marijuana is a gigantic fascination and millions of people use it. Why? Because it is good. Because it does not harm yourself or those around you. It only hurts those around you when they’re shut-in squares who think it’s just THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD. Marijuana has only been inconvenient in my life because my family disagrees with it and I started pretty young. 16 I believe, but I did what I believe in every single day and now they understand that they can not stop me. Think of this as a metaphor for the entire marijuana movement. It started out, regarded with fear and punishment, as the most criminal thing in existence. And now…people may grow it in their homes and smoke ounces of it with the simple attainment of a license, just like fishing or hunting. Because, like those things, it relaxes honest, responsible users.

    Your campaign has failed John. Our movement is much too strong and it’s only gonna get bigger. Smoke a joint, and chill out you square.

  34. Imagine somewhere 36,000,000 Human Beings in a few weeks will “vote” that is 36 Million People.

    I Vote YES on proposition 19, at 63 years of age I Hope this is the end

  35. I’m glad so many comments here have focused on McKay’s absolutely horrendous treatment of cannabis users. How he describes Emery is nothing short of disrespectful, and calling all of us “idiots” and “dumb” is simply mean. What an asshole, someday he will learn that he was the true idiot for ever opposing any aspect of our culture.

  36. “I don’t smoke pot. And I pretty much think people who do are idiots.”

    What about Sir Paul McCartney who used it to enhance his creativity and change the world?

    What about Dr. Carl Sagan who used it to ameliorate the effects of a degenerate disease that eventually took his life?

    Idiots? What kind of kind of mind would make such a sweeping generalization?

  37. “Paternalism refers to an attitude or a policy reminiscent of the hierarchic pattern of a family based on patriarchy. The term may be used derogatorily to characterize attitudes or political systems that are thought to deprive individuals of freedom and responsibility, only nominally serving their interests, while in fact pursuing another agenda which is directly against the interests of the individuals.”


  38. Couldn’t find any original ideas in his essay.

    The truth is truth no matter who speaks it. So someone who makes dollars doing something wrong realizes one of his job duties makes him cringe a little, lose a little sleep. But hey it’s a living.

    A drunk is not wrong when he says alcohol abuse is harmful. When a cop/prosecutor says unjust Cannabis scheduling causes misery that good intentions cannot justify, they are right. This isn’t a novelty. The truth is the truth. Honest people have been saying the same thing for years. These don’t have a personal interest or goal of in wringing people through the costly and overburdened legal system.

    Prisons are meant to hold the violent or antisocial or those who lack conscience. Imprisoning cannabis users/sellers is exploitation of the criminal justice system to make revenue for unethical privatized prison administrators.

    I’ll infer that McKay has realized that Cannabis prohibition is going to end. But he is not saying it is going to end because it is unjust to its core and the prohibiton itself is a crime.

    imo he is saying let Cannabis go, we’ll be okay, we won’t lose our jobs, because there will still be heroin/crack/meth to deal with. We can still feel like we are the “good guys”

    When Cannabis is legalized, fewer people would bother trying black tar heroin or meth, wouldn’t it seem? There are people who do things specifically for self-destructive reasons but they are the exception.

  39. I’m an idiot for using marijuana because i choose the healthier , safer alternative with no calories over the deadly drugs that are easily available over the counter & in your local liquor store to every man , woman and CHILD out there .

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