Pubdate: Thu, 16 Mar 2017
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Kieran Delamont
Page: 14


Police crackdown on Cannabis Culture dispensaries clouds future of
Prince of Pot

The faint smell of marijuana smoke hung in the halls of Old City Hall
on Friday, March 10; dozens had turned out for the bail hearing of
Cannabis Culture dispensary owners Marc and Jodie Emery.

Bail conditions for Cannabis Culture's Marc Emery include his not
being involved in operation of the stores.

The "Prince and Princess of Pot" were arrested, along with Chris
Goodwin, Erin Goodwin and Britney Guerra, on Wednesday night and
charged with a raft of marijuana-related offences, including
trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime. The arrests were
part of Project Gator, a nationwide operation coordinated by Toronto
police specifically targeting six Cannabis Culture locations in
Toronto and Hamilton and Cannabis Culture's magazine offices in
Vancouver, where computers were seized but no charges were laid
against staff. Two Cannabis Culture stores in Ottawa were also raided,
although police say those were not connected to Project Gator.

Police seized more than 65 kilograms of cannabis and 2.4 kilograms of
concentrates, as well as more than $250,000 in cash, ramping up a
police war on dispensaries that has escalated in recent weeks even as
the Trudeau government has promised to introduce a legal recreational
marijuana regime by spring.

It's unclear why Cannabis Culture was targeted. (The police allege
supply for the storefront operations is coming from the black market.)
But one might interpret Project Gator as the police's final swipe at
the Emerys, who have a long history with law enforcement. As the faces
of the movement to legalize marijuana in Canada, they were front and
centre during last May's Project Claudia raids. Jodie Emery crashed
the police press conference at headquarters to protest the arrests.

But a number of armed robberies of dispensaries in recent months,
including at a dispensary on Eglinton West on February 15, has raised
the issue of public safety and sparked renewed calls from local
politicians to shut down the operations.

While the Emerys were released on Friday, there will be questions
about the future of their storefront chain's 19 locations in BC,
Ontario and Quebec. As a condition of their release, the couple were
given two weeks to extricate themselves from the day-to-day operation
of Cannabis Culture or risk violating the terms of their release.

There are no clear answers about how the stores will operate without
the Emerys' involvement, but the couple seem prepared to comply with
the terms of their release for now.

"Jodie and I can no longer be involved with Cannabis Culture stores or
the brand, despite its being the culmination of 24 years of hard work
and struggle," wrote Marc Emery in a Facebook post late Friday from an
internet cafe after police seized their phones and computers. "You
won't find me at any Cannabis Culture stores, or any dispensary, for
that matter. Our livelihood, our brand, our money, our inventories all
gone!" Emery writes that plans are in the works for a cross-Canada
tour in May, but the couple's current bail conditions forbid them to
leave Ontario.

According to him, Cannabis Culture employees are "keen to take over"
the businesses. And by Friday afternoon, even before the Emerys had
been released, Cannabis Culture's Church Street store had reopened,
with staff cheekily defying police by selling a special strain dubbed
"OG Gator." Call it a middle finger to the police operation.

"We're going to reopen every time," said Chris, an employee who did
not provide a last name. He, along with other employees and the store
manager, were present during the raids but not charged. It was another
twist in a day full of them.

What should have been a fairly routine bail hearing was marked by
confusion from the start. Scheduled for 10 am, it was pushed back an
hour to accommodate the large crowd of supporters in the courthouse.
Proceedings were delayed again because the defendants had not fully
read the 50 page summary setting out the charges against them. Shortly
after noon, the court learned that the justice of the peace assigned
to the court had become ill and needed to be taken to hospital,
delaying proceedings until another justice could be found, after 2 pm.
All five of those charged were eventually released at around 7 pm.

The Emerys will appear in court again on April 21. Their lawyer had
(curiously enough) initially proposed April 20 (also known as 420, the
day reserved for the annual smoke-out at Nathan Phillips Square), but
moved the date upon Marc Emery's immediate - and passionate - objection.
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