Pubdate: Sat, 27 Aug 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Dale Carruthers
Page: A1


Prince of Pot Marc Emery urges defiant London dispensary to hang tough
in showdown with police

Be ready to do jail time. That's the message the formerly imprisoned
Marc Emery, Canada's most famous marijuana crusader, delivered to a
London pot shop that's become the local flashpoint in the shifting
ground on Canada's pot laws.

The Prince of Pot paid an unexpected visit to Tasty Budd's Friday,
throwing his support behind the Wharncliffe Road marijuana dispensary
i n what's become its high-profile showdown with city police.

"I said, 'Be prepared to go to jail.' If you're not, it's not going to
work out,' " Emery, a former Londoner who did time in an American
prison for selling pot seeds into the U.S., said of the meeting.

Now living in Vancouver, Emery is in Ontario to open a new dispensary
in Toronto, where police recently raided two of his Cannabis Culture
franchises in a crackdown on illegal dispensaries. Both reopened
within days.

Pot dispensaries have mushroomed across Canada recently, especially in
major cities, a problem critics trace to a vacuum left by the federal
Liberal government for not clarifying or specifying timetables for its
vow to legalize marijuana. The Trudeau government has said it plans to
bring in legislation to legalize pot next spring.

"My thing is, go to jail, be resistant - don't give in and that's what
we're doing with our locations," said Emery, who was released from a
U.S. prison in 2014 after serving more than four years for selling
marijuana seeds online.

The Canada-wide battle between dispensaries and law enforcement
agencies arrived in London last week when police raided Tasty Budd's,
which had opened six days earlier in defiance of the law.

Police seized the store's inventory and charged the owner and an
employee with drug trafficking.

Not backing down, the East Coast firm's founder sent three
representatives to London to reopen the store this week, which brought
two plain-clothed police officers by who reportedly delivered a
warning to the store from London's top cop.

Chief John Pare declined an interview request Friday, but Insp. Paul
Waight confirmed in an email that police went to Tasty Budd's.

"Officers attended the business on Thursday . . . to inform the
proprietors that if they reopened that they could be subject to
further law enforcement action," Waight wrote.

Asked why police are targeting London's newest pot dispensary, while
two others - both, much less flashy - have operated in London for
years, Waight said they too could be investigated.

The other two dispensaries operate below radar as so-called compassion
clubs for people using medicinal marijuana.

Tasty Budd's made no secret of its opening or location, brashly
announcing its arrival.

Staff there acknowledged they're taking a risk by reopening after the
raid, but said Emery's visit boosted their resolve to push ahead.

A photo Emery posted to Instagram showing his visit to the shop
quickly generated hundreds of likes online.

"It's nice to see that we're not standing alone and the message is
getting out to the cannabis community," said Jordan Johnson, Tasty
Budd's regional manager.

The dispensary was undergoing a facelift Friday to make it less
noticeable, removing the words "medical dispensary" from its signs and
applying frosting over the windows. The business now bills itself as a
members-only compassion club, similar to the city's low-key pot

A company representative said plans are underway to open a second
London location.

Dispensaries are illegal in Canada under a federal law that limits
sale of marijuana for medicinal use to a few dozen government-approved
commercial producers. But dispensary operators cite a 2014 federal
court ruling that said forcing patients to buy prescription pot from
only those producers violated their rights.

Critics say the Liberals' pledge to legalize pot is causing confusion
and two-tiered policing, with some shops raided and others not.
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