Pubdate: Fri, 16 Dec 2016
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Christopher Curtis
Page: A1


Say what you will about his methods, but Canada's self-proclaimed
"Prince of Pot" knows how to make an entrance.

Throngs of admirers stood in the snow Thursday and cheered Marc Emery
on as he rolled up to the opening of an illegal marijuana dispensary
on Mont-Royal Ave. He held court in the shop for half an hour as he
made an impassioned case for the legalization of pot - logic-based
arguments honed over a career of marijuana advocacy.

Then he reached into a jar full of weed nuggets, held one up for the
crowd to see and shouted "Who wants a free nug?" The audience hollered
in approval.

Yes, the unveiling of an illegal dispensary actually ended in a
massive weed giveaway.

Emery was in town to open eight new Cannabis Culture dispensaries in

Until the time police shut them down - should they choose to do so -
the stores will sell pot for recreational users provided they're at
least 19 years old.

There are dispensaries in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, Notre-Damede-Grace,
St-Michel, Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie and downtown districts, although
two of them - on Queen Mary Rd. and Bishop St. - did not open as
planned because of permit issues.

Thursday night, despite arctic temperatures, hundreds of people lined
up for two hours outside the dispensaries on Mont-Royal Ave. and
St-Laurent Blvd. to get their Purple Kush ($7), Rock Star or Super
Lemon Haze ($11). "This should be normal," said Reg, a connoisseur
buying one gram of each variety. "Anyone here could call a dealer and
have this at home. But here it's out in the open."

Claude, one of the few older customers, said he couldn't have imagined
back in the 1970s that one day he would be buying pot over the counter
like this.

"It's like Prohibition. But now this is happening and no one can stop

"This is history in the making," said Michael, an engineering student
who came in from Laval to be at the Cannabis Culture shop on its first
day. "And the police could shut it down tomorrow."

Emery and his wife, Jodie, made no bones about the fact that their
business is a criminal enterprise.

"Quebec is one of two provinces I have not been arrested in," Emery
said. "I've been arrested 28 times in Canada for marijuana and I've
seen 34 prisons and jails in all that time. And yet even after 26
years of this kind of civil disobedience, the law still exists."

While the Liberal government was elected last year on a promise to
regulate and tax the sale of marijuana, trafficking the drug is still
a criminal offence.

"Marijuana prohibition has never been legitimate, there has never been
a real public policy reason for why this law exists," Emery said.
"It's a complete abomination ... and anyone who enforces this
despicable law is a despicable person."

Emery may soon count Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre among his list of
despicables. Coderre said Thursday there would be "zero tolerance" for
the storefronts.

There are two other dispensaries in the city, but police appear to
tolerate them because they only sell medicinal marijuana to patients
with a valid prescription. Neither has been raided in years.

The arrival of the Cannabis Culture franchises may upset this delicate
balance. Emery's rapidly-expanding chain includes 12 shops in
Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton and Port Coquitlam, B.C. Most have been
raided by police, but reopened within days.

Things may not be so easy in Quebec. Montreal police say they have
opened an investigation into the cannabis stores, but would not
comment further.

"The police, who I respect, don't like this sort of a media splash,"
said Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who runs the Fondation Marijuana
dispensary on St-Laurent Blvd. "They could crack down and, in the
past, this sort of thing has affected all of us. Even those among us
who play by the rules."

Emery says one of his Toronto boutiques serves more than 1,000
customers a day, that he pays sales tax on each transaction and that
the Montreal locations will as well.

Prospective franchisees will pay six per cent of their gross sales to
Emery and, sources say, a fee of between $5,000 and $10,000 to open a

The Cannabis Culture pot mostly comes from grow operations in British
Columbia, Jodie said, adding that it's quality-tested for pesticides
and other contaminants. She claims none of the dispensary customers
has ever been arrested.

"They can come and they can arrest me for buying weed if they want
to," said one customer, who wished to remain anonymous. "I didn't do
anything wrong and it won't stop me from buying marijuana here.

"I don't really drink beer, I'm not a bad guy, I just like to smoke
weed. Check out how things are on the West Coast, man. You can walk
into a store and buy it there and society isn't coming apart at the

Emery and Jodie have partnered with one "major investor" and a series
of franchisees, but she said they're keeping the names of their
partners confidential.

Thursday's rollout came just days after the federally appointed Task
Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation submitted its first
report to Parliament. In it, the task force recommends the sale of
marijuana in regulated storefront boutiques.

Asked why the couple didn't wait until legalization before expanding
their business, Jodie said it is only through activism, court
challenges and direct action that real change can occur.

"Nearly half of all Canadians admit to using marijuana. Canadians
voted for the Liberal party because they wanted legalization . ...
Well, this is what legalization looks like. ... I beg the Montreal
police: Let us be in peace. Please do not cause harm to the harmless
people who are choosing to work here and push forward this very
important issue."

Francis, waiting at the end of a long line of people to get into the
store, said for him it wasn't political. He just wanted to see how
this stuff from B.C. compared to what he usually gets from his dealer.

"Everyone has pot - for a kid, it's easier to buy pot than cigarettes.
So why not make it legal and control it?"
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MAP posted-by: Matt