The dust is settling after police raids on Marc and Jodie Emery’s dispensaries across Canada today in Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton. The operation, dubbed “Project Gator” by the Toronto police, resulted in the arrest of five people and the execution of 11 search warrants in the three cities. According to lawyer Kirk Tousaw, those arrested included Marc Emery, Jodie Emery, Erin Goodwin, Chris Goodwin, and Britney Anne Guerra.
Project Gator: 11 warrants, three cities, five arrests. All related to Cannabis Culture.
The Emerys, who were arrested last night as they were boarding a flight to Barcelona for Spain’s annual Spannabis conference, appeared briefly this morning in Toronto’s Old City Hall Courthouse. Amid boisterous support from activists, Jodie flashed a peace sign and blew a kiss to Marc mouthing “I love you.” Marc and Jody Emery are expected to have their bail hearing on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, seven Cannabis Culture locations across Canada were being raided (five in Toronto, one in Hamilton and one in Vancouver). Jodie and Marc Emery were charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offense; trafficking; possession; and possession of proceeds of a crime.
Rex Mekkem, a logistics manager at Cannabis Culture Hamilton, said authorities had seized employees’ mobile phones. “Metro Toronto is raiding the Hamilton store. They’ve took every one of staff’s phones,” Mekkem said in a Facebook video, apparently shot using a borrowed device. “They’re just taking everybody’s names and everybody’s phones and kicking us loose, because it has to do with Toronto, they said.”
Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Service reiterated their stand that dispensaries are not legal even if national legalization were to come in the next few months.
Speaking to local media, Toronto Police Services Communications spokesperson Mark Pugash insisted that the agency is merely enforcing the law. Pugash said that there are health risks to cannabis sold in dispensaries, due to the lack of proper quality control and the potential presence of insecticides and mold. Pugash also pointed to a recent spate of dispensary robberies, some at gunpoint, and indicated that the police believe there are a number of “outlaw enterprises” operating in the industry. It was unclear whether Pugash meant the police considered the Emerys an “outlaw enterprise,” or whether the mere operation of a dispensary was considered as such.
Toronto’s municipal licensing and standards office told the Toronto Star that the city had also filed an injunction in Superior Court related to seven locations of a different company, Canna Clinic.
“It’s just a big waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Tania Cyalume, Toronto activist
“The City of Toronto has consistently pursued enforcement actions against marijuana stores in the city. These operations are illegal under federal law and also operate in contravention of the City’s zoning by-laws,” said a statement from licensing head Tracey Cook.
“The new court application commenced by the city with respect to a chain of marijuana stores operating in multiple locations across the city continues the city’s efforts to enforce its existing bylaws.”
In Ottawa, Health Minister Jane Philpott was asked about the raids this afternoon. She would only confirm that the Liberal Government remains on track to deliver its expected cannabis legalization proposal by June 21, 2017.
Reaction from the activist community was swift. “It’s just a big waste of taxpayer dollars,” said local Toronto activist Tania Cyalume. “The timing of these raids fits Trudeau and the Liberal party’s agenda to only allow the LP model. While it doesn’t look good for the future of dispensaries, I have no doubt they will reopen.”
Canada’s cannabist activists were abuzz on social media, with Vancouver-based lawyer Kirk Tousaw providing regular updates.
Much of the commentary focused on the perception that closing storefront dispensaries like Cannabis Culture would play into the hands of underground black-market drug dealers. Some noted those dealers are brazenly pedaling much more dangerous substances, including the opioid fentanyl.