Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2017
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Kieran Delamont
Pages: 15-16


The queen of Canada's movement to legalize marijuana has not been
afraid to cultivate her undeniable girl-next-door charm - or invite
controversy - for the cause. And now, an escalating series of police
raids that have shut down the Cannabis Culture chain

Jodie Emery types eagerly on her iPhone. "This is a good one," she
says. We're barely a minute into our interview at a small Ethiopian
restaurant near the gay village, and she's on Twitter calling out
Toronto police. It's absurd, she says, that they're spending resources
raiding marijuana dispensaries with legalization just around the bend.
Where the TPS is concerned, Emery can be forgiven for seeming a bit
spiteful. It's just shy of three weeks since she and her husband, Marc
Emery, who's riding shotgun tonight, were arrested at Pearson
International Airport (on their way to a marijuana expo in Spain) and
slapped with a string of marijuana-related offences - 15 for him, five
for her, ranging from trafficking to possession of the proceeds of
crime to conspiracy - after raids on their Cannabis Culture stores.

Even for Canada's first couple of the marijuana movement, who've been
known on occasion to invite controversy, this has been an unnerving
experience. Friends in the business who came to show support at their
bail hearing were arrested. A relative ended up having to put up
surety (her house) to get bail.

The conditions imposed for their release, which include having nothing
to do with their shops, have effectively shut down their operations.
Their Church Street flagship shop was officially shuttered last weekend.

Even smoking a joint could be grounds for putting them back in jail.
(Our photographer asked Jodie Emery to pose with marijuana plants for
our cover, but that would also prove too risky.) Emery has been forced
to apply for a medical marijuana licence and buy her supply from a
licensed producer (or LP), the very folks, she says, who are urging
cops to bust storefront dispensaries so they can corner the
recreational weed market for themselves when pot is legalized next

Her theory is not that far-fetched. If the smoke signals the Trudeau
government's zero tolerance pot czar, Bill Blair, has been sending are
any clue, LPs stand to score big under legalization, while those
who've been on the front line of the movement to end marijuana
prohibition may be left holding the baggie.

Marc Emery, rocking that Ned Flanders-inspired green sweater he's been
photographed in a lot lately, reaches over occasionally to play with
Jodie's hair. He cracks jokes about how much she talks. They could be
mistaken for any couple out for dinner because they're too bored to
cook. I have to remind myself that in legal terms I might be sitting
across from two of the biggest drug dealers in Canada. At least that's
what the cops, who have singled out their Cannabis Culture stores in
an escalating war on dispensaries starting with Project Claudia last
May, would have us believe.

Toronto police see no contradiction in prosecuting the Emerys - or
blowing a stretched police budget on raiding their stores - while the
federal government is set to legalize marijuana. Toronto police
spokesperson Mark Pugash says, "The only people who find that argument
compelling are the people who are breaking the law." He says of the
Emerys, "I'm not sure anybody takes them seriously," but clearly, police do.

Criticism of the Emerys' weed exploits has also come from those within
the medical marijuana branch of the movement. While some hail them as
heroes, others say the couple's opposition to any regulation is
attracting the kind of unwanted heat (both police and political) that
will only encourage the feds to cut out the storefront operations of
others looking for a piece of the action once the legal weed market

"If you just want to have a couple of puffs recreationally, well, it
doesn't come down to human rights," says co-owner of the Queens of
Cannabis Dispensary Brandy Zurborg, who was recently locked out of her
store by her landlord. "It comes down to what a [consenting] adult
should be allowed to do."

The federal government is expected to table legislation on
legalization Thursday, April 13. The task force charged with making
recommendations to the Liberal government released a report in
December that left the door open to storefront dispensaries.

But word is the feds will let the provinces work out whether that
means getting weed at the corner store or your local Shoppers Drug
Mart, conceivably handing the right to distribute exclusively to
licensed producers currently supplying medpot patients with weed under
the federal government's Access To Cannabis For Medical Purposes
Regulations. Will there be a place for the Emerys, or anyone else
currently conducting business in the grey market, once legalization
comes into effect?

Cannabis is now big business, a corporate game with industrial-scale
growing operations for vast profits on the stock market.

Jordan Sinclair, a spokesperson for Canopy Growth Corporation,
Canada's largest LP, says, "There is a place for storefront
distribution in this country, but we've also been vocal about the fact
that it should be regulated." In other words, it's LPs who should be
supplying storefronts.

In conversation, Jodie Emery occasionally switches between "Marc" and
"Marc Emery," as if she were referring to someone other than her
husband of over a decade. They met for the first time in 2004 while
Marc was running for the BC Marijuana Party and campaigning in
Kamloops - in a campaign bus, legend has it, that once belonged to
Richard Nixon.

They became friends, keeping up their acquaintance on pot forums.
After graduating from St. Michaels University School in Victoria,
Jodie moved to Vancouver, taking Marc up on his invitation to get
hitched and involved in the legalization movement. She was 19 and
exploring newly acquired political convictions after growing up
anti-drug, anti-alcohol and anti any of the other core pursuits of

Gradually, the strait-laced leadership student developed an
explorative side. "I smoked pot the first night I tried beer for the
first time," Jodie tells me. "We hot-boxed the bathroom, and then my
mind started to change about everything."

She was young, smart and passionate, but still new to the

In a 2005 issue of Cannabis Culture magazine, she was photographed
nude, surrounded by pot plants. She was unapologetic about using her
looks to further the cause.

"Sexuality is beautiful, and if beauty garners attention, then I feel
I can use my assets to draw attention to my, and our, personal
mission," she said at the time. "If a pretty face sells CoverGirl
makeup, then a pretty face can sell legalization."

But it was Marc Emery's high-profile arrest and extradition to the
U.S. (he would serve four years of a five-year sentence for selling
pot seeds) that ultimately catapulted her head first into the
legalization movement - a fresh face, in contrast to Marc, who by the
time he was released in 2014 was approaching 50 and not as
social-media-savvy as the new breed of pot activists.

While Marc, the martyr, spent those years being shuttled between
prisons in the southern U.S., Jodie busied herself organizing
demonstrations for Marc's release, Vancouver's 420 celebrations and
running Cannabis Culture as an above board head shop so as not to
jeopardize her travel privileges. She visited him in jail 81 times, a
full day's travel each way.

It was direct exposure to the human cost of the drug war, meeting kids
who'd come to visit their fathers - some of whom, like Marc, had been
incarcerated on cannabis-related charges - that she says has had the
greatest effect on her activism.

"When you see these big, tough men playing with their babies, and
there's all this love...," she says, trailing off. She's fighting back
tears. "That shit, that hurts." A silence falls over the dinner table.

By 2016, some two years after Marc's release, the Emerys were
struggling to keep their Cannabis Culture business afloat. They opened
franchises and relocated to Toronto. As the police raids continued
here, they remained defiant, selling pot to anybody over the age of
19. In their minds, their model - the bricks-and-mortar manifestation
of cannabis for all - is what legalization should look like in Canada.

"And of course, that's why we're in trouble, because that's not the
legalization the government wants," she says.

But as they face their greatest crisis, with the end of cannabis
prohibition fast approaching, they have no plans, it seems, to take a

What comes next? Neither thinks the charges against them will stick;
no judge, says Marc, will take on the hassle once legalization is imminent.

Under their bail conditions, they cannot go into a dispensary, cannot
associate with the franchise they have built, can't even smoke pot
without a doctor's note. They can't do the one thing they've always
done - blow smoke in the face of authority.

Last week, Brian Hutchinson wrote in Maclean's that the legal weed
industry will be better off without the Emerys. The bud business, he
wrote, has "no place for free-for-all advocates like the Emerys who
are off in their own world."

What future of cannabis are the Emery's working for?

"I want to see amnesty, I want to see an apology, everyone's record
wiped clean," says Jodie Emery, barely taking a breath. "I want to see
the government say [it's] sorry for the decades-long coordinated,
expensive misinformation campaign designed to scare people."

She abandons the thought mid-stream to launch into a new one: "We're
going to have to pay the price by getting arrested and going to jail,
when the ones who are the perpetrators don't suffer at all. If you're
being raided, who do you call for help?"
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