When Marc was released back to Canada in 2014, he walked straight through the customs office to a press conference where he announced he and Jodie would do everything in their power to help elect Justin Trudeau, a pro-legalization Liberal, to prime minister of Canada in 2015.
Trudeau won and has since tasked his Liberal government with legalizing adult-use cannabis by July 1, 2018. There’s just one catch — all the cultivation and distribution to be considered “legal” would come exclusively from existing multi-million-dollar Licensed Producers (LPs) — state sanctioned oligopolies created to meet court-mandated federal medicalization in 2013.
Canadian LPs are among the most valuable marijuana businesses in the world and many are publicly traded.
The LPs have lobbied the government to ramp up enforcement on small time growers and dispensaries — which is why the Emerys licensed the “Cannabis Culture” name to dispensaries all around the city of Toronto looking to become part of the franchise. These are shops that elected to sell cannabis grown by small (technically illegal) farmers, before legalization becomes law, to adults regardless of medical status.
In 2016, the Toronto police engaged in a series of raids and arrests (dubbed “Project Claudia”) in an attempt to curb illegal production, sales and possession. At the time, the Emerys were already in the process of licensing their name to even more stores, with plans to add 200 more in Toronto the following year.
This March, the Emerys were arrested in the departure area of the Toronto Pearson International Airport and they now face charges of conspiracy to commit an indictable offense, possession and drug trafficking; they could potentially spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted.
Jodie Emery explains how she and Marc, Canada’s most high-profile cannabis activists, may watch Canada legalize marijuana from behind bars next year.
Cannabis Now: To an uninformed American, what does “Canadian legalization” really mean?
Jodie Emery: (Sighs) Well, Canadians themselves are actually quite confused about what is going on. In Canada, overall what the legislature will do is technically decriminalize 30 grams of marijuana or less. If you have more than that amount, or are a young adult, or are growing and possessing more than 30 grams, you will still be criminalized and victimized by prohibition law.[The Liberal administration] has been talking about legalization as an idea, but in the reality, they are only setting up a massive corporate takeover. Legalization is coming, but the fight is far from over. Legalization in my opinion means the end of criminalization.
Next year, when legalization goes into effect, could you possibly be in prison?
There is a chance I could be in jail when cannabis is finally legalized. Our charges carry a potential of life in prison. At the same time, there are billions of dollars swirling around people getting into this and it’s possible in a year from now the Crown Prosecutor will throw out the case, I hope. They might want to make an example out of us and… use us to scare people away from peaceful civil disobedience — which got us this far in reform in the first place.
Maybe we were only arrested to try and stop the growth of our stores, which did work. We had up to 200 stores opening next year. We were back to doing what Marc does best — using business to finance activism. They arrested us to sideline us and put us on ice as legalization unfolds.
As an activist, I will continue to protest, rally, demand amnesty — and politicians are joining me. My message is still being heard, even by the government. I know I am still a thorn in their side and, in a way, that is what I want to do. I want to condemn prohibition and be an advocate for cannabis and I won’t stop. I may suffer for it — for not shutting up, for being outspoken.
But in a way, arresting you right before rolling out federal legalization just gives you a bigger platform.
Yes, I actually thought our high profile would act as some sort of coverage or insurance or protection from arrest. I remember saying to Marc, “I can’t imagine they would actually arrest us.” Did they really want to give us that platform?
I guess they would rather us hold press conferences to talk about our arrests and not be opening 200 stores in Toronto. Every time they attack us they give us a higher profile and bigger platform. They don’t know how to deal with people like us because locking us up makes us more recognized.
They want to punish us but it makes them look bad. It’s a big bully beating up a little dweeb on the playground and everyone else views the bully as being the jerk.
Part of your bail conditions preclude you from using illegal drugs, so you got a medical prescription and are now consuming LP weed. How is the quality?
When I got my first order [all LP weed is delivered through the mail] I hadn’t smoked cannabis for a little while. It smelled good and looked good and was pretty decent. But, when I got the second order, the stock in the supply was low and there weren’t a lot of options. A couple of strains burned my lips. It’s not a good feeling.
LPs [specifically Mettrum] have been caught using banned pesticides and chemicals, even going so far as to hide the chemicals in the ceiling panels when inspected. You have veterans and patients launching class action lawsuits against LPs for selling contaminated product.
LP weed is weed, I have had some bad illegal weed before, but I can say from experience that Cannabis Culture took great pride in our product and we carried the best. Growers across this country are growing beautiful flowers but have to hide because of the law. When they say the dispensary growers are shady and hiding in the shadows, I ask that they let them come into the light!
Our cannabis [in the dispensaries] was great, the LP weed is “OK.” The difference between LP weed and dispensary weed is that many of the LPs are growing and selling the plant in prison-like facilities with the motive of profit. When you consume the product you can tell if there is love in it or not. It’s like music, food, clothing or any kind of art — when you care about something and love it, it is good and you can tell. When you don’t care about something, you can tell. The same thing is happening with cannabis, when it is being grown strictly for profit and greedy purposes, it’s not very good. When it’s grown with love and the intention of healing and peace, then it’s good.
The plant itself is being grown with the wrong intention and I think that is something you can tell in the quality. Legality or illegality has nothing to do with the quality of the product, it’s about intention.
TELL US, do you believe cannabis legalization should mean complete decriminalization?