Activists Defy Federal Ban By Opening Recreational Cannabis Shops In Montreal

Several cannabis dispensaries set to open in Montreal on Thursday will be selling marijuana to recreational users despite federal rules that forbid such shops.

Jodie Emery, a marijuana activist who owns the Cannabis Culture brand with her husband Marc Emery, Canada's self-styled "prince of pot," said in an interview the number of outlets will be between five and 10.

She says investors are lining up to open retail outlets as Ottawa forges ahead with plans to legalize marijuana.

"One of our investors has decided to open up franchises in Montreal and we get requests from all across Canada to open in basically every city," Emery said.

Anyone 19 and older will be able to buy marijuana, without membership or medical requirements, she added.

Under current federal legislation, such outlets are illegal and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the laws will stand until they are changed.

Emery, who will be in Montreal for the openings, said neither local police nor city officials have been in touch with her.

"I haven't heard from any law enforcement at all," she said. "I know they've been told by the federal government that all laws across Canada must be enforced so the status quo remains the same."

In a statement this week, Montreal police said such dispensaries are not permitted under federal rules governing medical marijuana and that they might intervene if laws are broken.

Asked about the impending arrival of the boutiques, Mayor Denis Coderre said federal laws should apply, but he also cautioned that new marijuana laws are on the way next spring.

The Quebec stores have been teased for a few weeks on social media. Other Cannabis Culture locations in British Columbia, Toronto and Peterborough, Ont., have been targeted in police raids.

A federal task force on legalized recreational marijuana has recommended that store and mail-order sales be allowed for Canadians 18 years and older.

"I do hope they will be more progressive and tolerant and allow our business to operate as long as we're not doing any harm," Emery said, adding she wants the franchises to serve as a model for future legal sales.

If they do get raided in Quebec, Emery said the plan is to reopen the next day.

"Threat of arrest is part of civil disobedience," she said. "We've already been through this many times.

"We openly break them to demonstrate the injustice of the law. If we get raided, it just demonstrates that peaceful, non-violent people are being harmed by force."

Banner image: Marc Emery, who owns the Cannabis Culture brand with his wife Jodie, right, gestures at the opening of one of their cannabis stores, December 15, in Montreal. Several other marijuana dispensaries are set to open in Montreal this week that will be selling marijuana to recreational users, despite federal rules that forbid such shops. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)


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