Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jan 2018
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Enzo DiMatteo
Page: 13



For Canada's first couple of pot, Jodie and Marc Emery, it hasn't been
happy trails of late. Their future in the marijuana legalization
movement would seem hazier now after pleading guilty last month to
trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime that came with
$195,000 in fines for each of them. The charges stem from high profile
raids led by Toronto police last March at a number of Cannabis Culture
dispensaries in Ontario and Vancouver, under the code name Project
Gator. Three other business associates charged in the raids were fined
between $3,000 and $10,000 each. Charges against 17 employees were

Jodie Emery and Marc Emery's plan to take their Cannabis Culture brand
national has seemingly been snuffed out, for now.

The cannabis community's reaction to the plea deal has been

Some have donated to a GoFundMe campaign to help with the couple's
fines. (The Emerys must pay at least $45,000 of the fine within two
years or face jail time.) As of this week, some $8,450 has been raised
from 119 contributors, although the needle on that amount hasn't
budged much since late December.

Others say the Emerys should have fought the charges given the federal
government's plans to legalize recreational marijuana next summer. To
be sure, at the time of the Project Gator raids, lawyers representing
the Emerys considered the likelihood of the charges sticking to be
remote. What changed? On that question, Jodie Emery offers two
responses - the couple didn't want to tie up the system fighting a
long court case that would cause delays in other cases "with real
victims;" and fighting the case "would have been an enormous cost and
hardship I can't afford."

There was also much talk about the Emerys doing jail time, although
evidence suggests the Crown didn't want to turn them into martyrs. The
goal was to put the Emerys out of business - according to Marc Emery,
authorities rejected an offer from him to serve a year in jail on the

Where the Emerys are concerned, its been their open and vocal flouting
of the law that has made them the target of authorities. To cops and
prosecutors they're more Bonnie and Clyde than the so-called Prince
and Princess of Pot.

To wit, the statement of facts read in court prior to last month's
plea deal. It states that Cannabis Culture's flagship store on Church
was bringing in an estimated $333,000 a week - and that the couple was
earning an additional $20,000 to $45,000 in royalties from other
franchises across the country. With those kind of numbers it's easy to
see why licensed producers viewed the Emerys push for storefront
dispensaries as a huge threat to their own bottom line.

Jodie Emery disputes those figures as "totally exaggerated and
overblown." But it's also true that her husband has "given away" piles
of money to the cause of legalization, an estimated $2 million -
that's according to FBI documents filed back in 2005 when the U.S. was
trying to secure Emery's extradition on conspiracy charges for selling
marijuana seeds. The documents also claim the mail-order marijuana
seed business Emery had been running for a decade out of Vancouver was
generating an estimated $5 million in profits a year.

No doubt, the business of weed has been very good to the Emerys. The
Crown in their most recent case laid out the couple's plans to take
the Cannabis Culture brand cross-country post-legalization, selling
dispensaries the use of the Cannabis Culture name, which the Emerys
have built into a national brand, in exchange for monthly fees and

That idea has gone up in smoke now that both Emerys have been saddled
with a criminal record, which would preclude them from taking part in
the legal trade.

That has led to speculation that the couple may hook up with one of
the larger licensed marijuana producers. But that scenario seems unlikely.

While their criminal records may restrict their involvement in the
legal trade in Ontario, where weed will be regulated by a
government-run monopoly, it's unclear to what extent those
restrictions will apply in other provinces that have opted for a mix
of privately owned and government-run weed stores.

The Emerys still occupy a huge space in the cannabis industry through
a base of operations in Vancouver, where half a dozen stores carry the
Cannabis Culture name, and offices that serve as headquarters for Pot
TV and Cannabis Culture magazine.

Jodie Emery hasn't let go of the dream of finding a place in the legal
industry. "That has always been the goal," she says.

Marc Emery, meanwhile, has embarked on a three-month tour of Latin
America, which in recent weeks has taken him to the mountains of
former rebel-held territory in Colombia, where new cannabis
plantations run by collectives are poised to enter the extracts and
oil market in a big way. In Facebook posts of his journey, Emery says
he's not chasing the next big thing, just offering his advice to
entrepreneurs looking to get in on the market.

While they enjoy a cult-like status among devoted followers, it's no
secret that others in the business of cannabis view the couple's
publicity-seeking brand of activism as a heat score. They point to the
fight Jodie Emery picked with the chief by crashing his press
conference after Project Claudia, the first dispensary raids in the
city, as the impetus for more raids that followed. And then there's
Marc Emery's history of off-colour pronouncements on social media on
everything from trans rights to sexual assault allegations against
Harvey Weinstein. To be sure, Marc Emery's politics have not been in
tune with the new breed of activism in a movement more keen on
diversity than the personal freedom brand of libertarianism he
espouses as a philosophy.

In some ways he's been an unlikely face of the movement - a
businessman whose status as such offered a measure of protection from
authorities that might not otherwise be granted to, say, a person of
colour in his position.

There have been questionable political forays. More recently, he has
been singing the praises of Jack MacLaren, the former PC backbencher
who defected to the Trillium Party, for his support for privately
owned dispensaries. MacLaren got tossed from the PC caucus for cracks
about French language rights and sexual violence against women.

But if former high-profile cops who spent their careers arresting
people for pot can now have their piece of the pie, then why not the
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