VANCOUVER — David Malmo-Levine, one of Canada’s most flamboyant marijuana activists, was led off to jail Wednesday to serve a six-month sentence for a pound-a-day trafficking operation he ran for three years.
His supporters, who crowded the tiny Main Street courtroom, burst into tears and cried out, “We love you David!”
The Edmonton-born 35-year-old, who has made ending the criminal cannabis prohibition his life’s work, vowed imprisonment would not end his crusade.
“I hope he is wrong,” Provincial Court Judge Joseph Galati said.
While Marc Emery, the imprisoned Prince of Pot awaiting extradition to the U.S., sold seeds, Malmo-Levine was convicted of offering bags of marijuana, hash, psilocybin mushrooms and opium.
Though “in some respects I admire” Malmo-Levine for the way he presented his drug policy views, the judge insisted the criminal code must be enforced.
“He objects to being called a zealot,” Galati noted, “but he admits he is zealous in advancing his cause.”
Malmo-Levine, whose last convictions for trafficking in 1998 led to a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling, did business from a store on East Hastings Street next to the safe-injection site.
He called it, “The Herb School.”
Malmo-Levine and his associates also conducted “Drug War History” walking tours of the downtown identifying sites in Chinatown, for instance, where at the turn of the last century there were numerous opium factories.
After a lecture on how to safely use marijuana, “students” could make purchases.
Two undercover Vancouver cops who tried to get into the Herb School only to buy pot were turned away because they wouldn’t take the tour and lecture.
During a three-day surveillance stint in January 2008, police counted 346 visitors to the school where Malmo-Levine was known as “the grand poobah.”
The VPD dubbed the raid on the Herb School — “Operation Herbicide.”
“As if they didn’t notice the irony of attacking non-toxic, non-carcinogenic herbs with such a toxic, carcinogenic metaphor,” Malmo-Levine quipped in court.
He pleaded guilty to the trafficking charges but presented a mountain of evidence on sentencing urging the judge to recognize the destructiveness of the prohibition and to “provide hope to others.”
Galati noted that the Supreme Court did not buy Malmo-Levine’s arguments and neither did he.
“Used properly cannabis may well be a remarkable substance,” he said, but no one was above the law.
Malmo-Levine kept no books, he paid no taxes and he claimed that after covering his costs and paying modest lifestyle expenses, he used any profit to fund his activism.
“The defendant is in debt as a result of the raid and will be for quite some time —probably four or five years,” he said. “His financial backers are unlikely to invest such money in any similar projects in the future.”
By Ian Mulgrew