Prominent marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery were charged with multiple drug-related offences in Toronto on Thursday after police in several cities raided pot dispensaries associated with the couple.
The self-styled “Prince” and “Princess of Pot” were arrested at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Wednesday evening. They appeared briefly in a courtroom on Thursday afternoon before police announced the full list of charges they faced.
Marc Emery faces 15 counts, including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of proceeds of crime, while Jodie Emery is charged with five similar counts.
The couple’s Toronto lawyer said his clients were expected to appear in court again on Friday.
“My clients were uncertain of what they’d been arrested for,” Jack Lloyd, said outside court. “They’re in good spirits … but they’re in custody, hopeful that we can have a productive bail hearing tomorrow.”
Jodie Emery mouthed the words “I love you” to her husband during the couple’s brief Thursday court appearance and flashed a peace sign to supporters in the room before being admonished by the justice of the peace.
The Emerys own the Cannabis Culture brand, which is used by a chain of 19 marijuana dispensaries in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said seven Cannabis Culture locations — five in Toronto, one in Hamilton and another in Vancouver — were searched on Thursday along with two homes in Toronto, one in Stoney Creek, Ont., and one in Vancouver.
“Our history of enforcing the law against illegal cannabis dispensaries is well established,” Pugash said. “This is the latest effort in our law enforcement, and I’m certain there will be further action.”
In addition to the Emerys, police charged three other people on Thursday. Thirty-seven-year-old Chris Goodwin and 31-year-old Erin Goodwin, both of Toronto, and 29-year-old Britney Guerra of Stoney Creek, Ont., face charges that include conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
The federal government is moving to legalize marijuana, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized late last year that the current laws exist.
Police forces across the country have been raiding pot shops in recent months and charging owners with trafficking-related offences.
In Vancouver, another lawyer for the Emerys said “several cannabis activists” were arrested Thursday, in addition to his clients.
“Co-ordinated countrywide raids attempting, futilely, to enforce an outdated and harmful law degrades public confidence in the administration of justice, wastes valuable taxpayer funds, wastes scarce police, prosecutorial and judicial resources and benefits precisely no one,” Kirk Tousaw said.
A group of protesters gathered outside Cannabis Culture headquarters in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon, decrying the latest raids and the Emerys’ arrest.
Postmedia embarked on a national series looking at the future of marijuana in Canada to examine what could be the defining nation-changing event of legalization. In this multi-part series, journalists from across the country look at the legal, medical and business ramifications of a reefer-friendly nation, including the lessons learned from trail-blazing states such as Colorado and Oregon, how the black market for pot will change, and the hazy transition period ahead.
“This is a move to attack Jodie and Marc Emery,” said Danny Kresnyak, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine. “It has nothing to do with protecting the children or keeping it out the hands of organized crime or anything else that they’re saying in their statements.”
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said Thursday that the federal government remains committed to introducing legislation on the matter in the spring but noted that it would have to go through a rigorous parliamentary and regulatory process.
“It’s a firm commitment of our government to legalize access to cannabis, to regulate that access and to restrict it appropriately,” she said. “We want to make sure this is done properly and people need to recognize it will take some time but it will be done.”
British Columbia’s public safety minister Mike Morris said Thursday, however, that he was concerned about public confusion about marijuana in Canada.
“The sooner the feds come out with the legislation, the sooner we can get on with determining what direction we need to go,” he said.
Marc Emery was previously arrested at one of his new Montreal dispensaries in December and charged with drug trafficking.
With files from Liam Casey, Gemma Karstens-Smith and Dirk Meissner