Pubdate: Fri, 10 Mar 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Andrea Woo and Jeff Gray
Page: S1


Following arrests of Marc and Jodie Emery, police target shops even as
Ottawa prepares for legalization

Police officers in several Canadian cities raided illegal marijuana
dispensaries linked to activists Marc and Jodie Emery on Thursday,
charging them and several others with drug offences as part of an
investigation led by Toronto police.

The raids were the latest attempt by local police forces to shut down
pot shops that have been opening in cities across the country, even as
the federal government prepares to fully legalize the drug with
legislation this spring. It was also notable for the involvement of
Vancouver's police force, which has largely left dispensaries in the
city alone, including those run by the Emerys.

The two were arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport on
Wednesday as part of a Toronto police operation called Project Gator.

Mr. Emery was charged with 15 counts, including trafficking,
possession and possession of the proceeds of crime, while his wife was
charged with five similar counts.

Chris and Erin Goodwin, of Toronto, and Britney Guerra, of Stoney
Creek, Ont., also face drug-related charges.

The five are scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

On Thursday, police in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver searched a
total of seven Cannabis Culture locations linked to the Emerys, acting
on warrants from the Toronto Police Service. Search warrants were also
executed at private residences in Toronto, Stoney Creek and Vancouver,
for a total of 11 warrants.

Ms. Emery has told The Globe and Mail in the past that she and her
husband do not own the Cannabis Culture franchises, but rather license
out the brand for a marginal percentage of sales. They do not supply
each location with product, she added.

The Emerys' flagship location in Vancouver adjoins a vapour lounge and
office, where Pot TV and the Cannabis Culture magazine are produced.

On Thursday morning, the front windows were covered with brown paper
as some police officers stood guard and others removed evidence
through a back entrance.

Magazine editor Danny Kresnyak said officers seized cellphones,
computers and cash, that art had been removed from the walls and that
a safe had been pried open. He was among a few dozen employees and
supporters who stood outside the location protesting the raid,
criticizing the use of police resources.

"We're supposed to be seeing [marijuana] legalization this year," Mr.
Kresnyak said. "[Justin] Trudeau ran on the idea that by the spring of
2017 [it would be legal], yet they're still raiding a shop that sells
mostly glass and T-shirts that have funny slogans on them."

Kevin Bruneau, an acquaintance of the Emerys and a longtime regular at
the vapour lounge, called the raid "ridiculous" and said he would
rather see resources focused on the overdose epidemic. There were 22
suspected overdose deaths

across Vancouver in the past two weeks, according to

"It's a complete waste of money," Mr. Bruneau said.

"What harm does this do? This hotel right over here averages three
ambulances a day. Maybe address that problem."

At an initial court appearance on Thursday, Mr. Emery strolled into
the prisoner's box, hands in his jean pockets, wearing a grey sweater
and took a seat. His wife remained standing, speaking with her lawyer
and, at one point, flashing a peace sign to the back of the courtroom
before being scolded by Justice of the Peace Marilyn Churley.

Earlier, Chris and Erin Goodwin, the owners of one of the
Emery-branded marijuana shop locations in Toronto, were arrested in
the hallway at the courthouse, where supporters of the Emerys had
gathered. The Goodwins were also charged with a number of drug-related
offences in January, 2016, in their roles as part owners of GoodWeeds,
a franchise of the Vancouver-based Weeds chain.

Toronto Police have taken an aggressive approach to the city's growing
number of marijuana dispensaries, while Vancouver police have largely
turned a blind eye so long as dispensaries aren't tied to gangsters,
or selling to minors. Toronto's first wave of busts came last May,
after Mayor John Tory expressed concerns about the rapid proliferation
of marijuana shops in the city.

Thursday's events mirror those of July, 2005, when Mr. Emery was
arrested at a rally in Halifax while Vancouver police, acting on
American charges, raided the Vancouver storefront. Mr. Emery
ultimately served five years in U.S. federal prison for selling
marijuana seeds over the Internet and was transferred back to Canada
in 2014.

The federal Liberal government, which has pledged to introduce
legislation to legalize marijuana this spring, has taken criticism for
not decriminalizing petty cannabis-related offences in the meantime.
"Until we have brought in legislation," Prime Minister Trudeau said
earlier this month, "the current law remains the law."

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said Thursday the legislation
will still have to go through the parliamentary process and then there
are regulatory processes that would likely take place.
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