Marc and Jodie Emery out on bail after pot shop raids
Published Thursday, March 9, 2017 7:50AM PST Last Updated Friday, March 10, 2017 1:28PM PST
A pair of Vancouver marijuana activists have been granted bail after being charged with several serious criminal offences in a crackdown on Cannabis Culture locations across Canada.
A lawyer representing B.C.'s so-called "Prince and Princess of Pot" said Marc and Jodie Emery were arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday, hours before police stormed marijuana shops they operate in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa.
The Emerys have since been charged with drug trafficking, possession, conspiracy and possession of the proceeds of crime. An additional count of failure to comply with a recognizance was also approved against Marc.
They were held in police custody until Friday, when the pair was released on bail with the condition that they must remain in Ontario. They were released only after putting up $30,000 each in bail, and surrendering their passports and travel documents.
Neither is allowed to possess weapons, purchase or consume controlled substances, or traffic or abet the trafficking of marijuana, among other conditions.
Prior to their release, they were held in police custody in Toronto. Their lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, said both were in decent spirits while in jail.
"As decent as you can be in when you're locked in a cage and your liberty has been restricted and deprived for no good reason," Tousaw added.
The Emerys intend to fight the charges, which their lawyer described as a waste of the limited resources available to both police and the Crown – particularly with the federal government having pledged to introduce its pot legalization legislation this spring.
"I think history will judge us poorly for prohibition generally and judge us poorly for our actions in the lead up to legalization," Tousaw said.
"Just because the law is on the books doesn’t mean that police have to enforce and it doesn’t mean the Crown has to prosecute."
The couple currently operates 20 locations of the Cannabis Culture marijuana dispensary chain, including five in Toronto. Three Vancouver-area shops function as dispensaries, but the fourth, its flagship on Hastings Street, is described as a “vapor lounge.”
Vancouver police have taken a hands-off approach to dispensaries in the city, opting to focus on other investigations unless prompted by a complaint from the public.
They did take part in Thursday morning's crackdown, but said they only were assisting with search warrants stemming from a Toronto police investigation.
A spokesperson directed all media inquiries to the Toronto Police Service.
During the raid, front windows of the Cannabis Culture storefront on Hastings were covered with brown paper while angry employees demanded answers from police.
One officer remained stationed in front of the front doors, while about a dozen activists held a "smoke out" directly out front.
Store manager Melissa Zorn felt the raid was "nothing more than a political manoeuver."
"We've been operating here since 2005 and we've not seen the police step in our building since then," she said.
Employees vowed not to allow police to leave with items seized during the raid, and sat down in front of the cruisers to block their exit in the alley behind the store.
The raid was one of 11 carried out across the country as part of Project Gator, a “Toronto Police Service project targeting marijuana dispensaries," according to department spokesperson Const. Caroline de Kloet.
Three other people were arrested in connection with the warrants: pot activists Chris and Erin Goodwin and Britney Guerra. All have since been charged with conspiracy, with additional counts of possession and possession of the proceeds of crime approved against Chris and Guerra.
Erin was also charged with failure to comply with a recognizance.
Tousaw called the actions of police "shameful."
"Good human beings are being literally locked into cages for cannabis," he said. "This latest salvo in Canada's senseless war on cannabis and cannabis consumers is a moral outrage and has no place in a free and democratic society."
Vancouver Cannabis Culture employee Karina Smeds echoed that sentiment.
"It's so unjust," she told CTV Vancouver. "Marc and Jodie have been hassled and harassed by the system for decades."
All eight of their Montreal locations were raided in late 2016 and have been temporarily closed, according to the Cannabis Culture website.