Jodie Emery has returned to Vancouver after being arrested for running recreational marijuana stores in Ontario, and says she thinks the charges she's facing are politically motivated.

The self-described activist called her and her husband Marc's arrests the latest salvo in a battle between what she calls the grassroots industry and government licenced producers.

"In the future, it would be great to see cannabis normalized and easily available," said Emery on her motivation for opening a chain of recreational weed shops across the country.

"That’s why we were demonstrating what legalization should look like: storefronts where adults can walk in and access cannabis."

With legalization looming in Canada, Emery worries that people like her will be completely shut out of the industry.

Some businesses in Vancouver, anxious to get ahead of whatever regulation comes with marijuana legalization, have already dropped the requirement for customers to have a medical reason to buy pot.

One such business, the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary on East Hastings Street, sits directly across the street from Strathcona Beer Company, one of Vancouver’s many flourishing micro-breweries.

"Certainly there are real distinct parallels between what happened in the beer industry and the spirit industry and now what we are starting to see with the marijuana industry," said Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang.

In recent years, microbreweries and distilleries fought through government red-tape and now the city has a thriving craft beer and spirits scene.

Jang sees a day – after legalization – where the same could be true for recreational pot.

"As marijuana becomes more and more part of our society, we’ll see the growth of customized micro-pot dispensaries, micro-pot grow-ops, I think providing a wide-range of products," said Jang.

"We're already getting inquiries about that at the City of Vancouver," he added. "I've had a lot of people come to me and say we want to get ahead of this, we want to create our own customized pot, we need a small grow-op space."

Jang says the city could accommodate such businesses once legalization becomes official and a regulatory framework is in place, provided the city is able to set out zoning parameters about where the grow-ops could operate.

That might be too late for Emery, who faces years in prison if convicted of all the charges against her.

"But if I do have to go and sit behind bars while the rest of the country enjoys legal access, at least I know that I did the right thing," she said.