Pubdate: Fri, 10 Mar 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Matt Robinson
Page: A3


Should other dispensaries worry?

In some respects, the news that Vancouver police raided Marc and Jodie
Emery's Cannabis Culture storefront Thursday comes as little surprise.

Raids happen from time to time, even here in Vancouver, where pot
shops are more common than McDonald's restaurants and many of them
have business licences.

And the Prince and Princess of Pot tend to thumb their noses at the
authorities - more so than others who openly trade in illegal drugs.

But it is a surprise that a Toronto police investigation spurred local
law enforcement into action against the Emerys' business.

The pot activists were arrested Wednesday in Toronto. On Thursday, the
pair were each charged with several criminal offences including
conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, trafficking and possession
of marijuana, resin and derivatives, and possession of proceeds of
drug money.

None of those charges are all that explosive. They're precisely the
sort that would stick to the legion of marijuana business owners
across this city, which is part of what makes the Vancouver Police
Department's involvement in this raid so curious. For several years,
the VPD has cracked down only on violent drug traffickers and those
who prey on minors, marginalized people or those with drug addictions.
They have also shut down pot shops with connections to organized crime.

The Emerys have been in the pot business for well over a decade. So
why raid now? The simple answer is that the VPD was assisting Toronto
police by carrying out a warrant obtained in Ontario and confirmed
here in B.C. But they didn't have to, said Kash Heed, who has served
as B.C.'s solicitor general and the head of the VPD's drug squad.

Police Chief Adam Palmer could have said no, recognizing, say, that
trafficking in marijuana is the least of this city's drug problems.
Saying no may have ended in embarrassment, as drugs are under federal
jurisdiction and the Mounties could have stepped in to carry out the
warrant instead, Heed suggested.

Certainly the raid in Vancouver has raised the question of whether the
VPD's policy on policing pot shops has shifted.

For Heed, it could be a signal that the VPD "will pay attention to
this matter more so than they have previously."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, city manager Sadhu Johnston and city
media relations staffers all refused to take questions on local police

Bizarrely, VPD directed that policy question to Toronto police. In so
doing, they refused to answer whether their approach to dealing with
local dispensaries had changed, or under what conditions they would
raid a pot shop.

In short, nobody's saying anything about anything on this

Except for Heed. And Melissa De Genova. The Non-Partisan Association
councillor has long been a critic of the decision to regulate pot
shops in Vancouver rather than shut them down.

Nearly 200 pot shops applied under the city's regulatory scheme and
about 35 have received development permits or business licences. Many
that were denied never shut their doors and, by De Genova's estimate,
another 50 shops never bothered applying at all.

The Emerys' Cannabis Culture locations are among those that never

Licensed dispensaries in Vancouver vary in ambience, but all are much
like any other retail storefront. The Emerys' lounges are different.
They're places to chill, smoke, and live the high life. Just like
their owners, they push the boundaries of what is and is not allowed.

But that's not something that bugged the VPD lately. And unless more
serious charges are filed, Vancouver's involvement on this one will
remain a bit of a head scratcher.

- - With files from Dan Fumano and PNG librarian Carolyn Soltau.
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MAP posted-by: Matt