On Dec. 4, activist and entrepreneur Marc Emery was in Toronto for the grand opening of the city's newest cannabis dispensary, 416 Medicinal Health Center. Meanwhile in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was getting ready for his first Throne Speech, which reaffirmed his government's commitment to legalize cannabis in Canada.
Civilized spoke with Emery about the recent RCMP raids of medical dispensaries, which have puzzled activists and dispensary owners given Trudeau's position on legalization. Trudeau has mainly focused on creating a legal recreational market, as Canada already has a legal medical market. But the best practices from other jurisdictions include storefront medical dispensaries and recreational retail outlets.
Here is Emery's take, which we've broken down into six points.
1. The raids are a form of political protest
Emery isn't exactly sure why RCMP detachments are cracking down now on "gray market" dispensaries, but he believes the raids are a form of political protest.
"I would think this is the police venting," he says. "It's their [form of] political expression at the public's expense and the citizenry's expense."
But he says their protests are falling on deaf ears.
"[T]hey are certainly acting in a manner that is counter to what the majority government has promised," he says. "It's counter to what the majority of Canadian citizens have clearly wanted in polls. So the police are acting as outliers here. They're acting rogue, as it were."
2. Police are worried about losing power
Emery says the crackdown is motivated by the police feeling insecure over losing power, rather than responding to concerns over public health or safety.
"The police are too all in on prohibition. They're having a really hard time going through their withdrawal symptoms, where it's going to be legal and they can't demonize us and use their power-tripping [like] they've done for 45-50 years. That's all over. And police don't really like to give up that power of control and intimidation. Their whole way of life relies on intimidating the Canadian public or cowing them into obedience or submission. So this idea that the government is going to give the people more freedom from police goes against the police's very nature."
3. The prohibition era is over
Emery knows the police are within their right to enforce the law, but says they should back down because prohibition is, in effect, defunct.
"[They're] enforcing the old law, which was the law under the Conservative government. And it's still the law of the land in Canada. But because it's clearly going to be changed, because there's clearly no harm to the public, because the majority of the people clearly want it [legalization], and a government who represents that point of view is elected, the police should back down."
Emery thinks the government needs to step in and prevent future raids and arrests from taking place.
"Stop the arrests for marijuana. If you want to show that you're sincere [about legalization], then you can't allow people to continue to get charged."
4. Raids are damaging the public image of law enforcement
Emery argues that the crackdowns are really a bust for the RCMP because it harms their image across the country.
"[S]pending money on these fruitless and futile investigations and charges [...] doesn't serve the public interest. And the police are pissing off thousands of people every time they raid a place. So they're only going to undermine their own authority, their own respect in the community, their own ability to enforce proper laws. So it's counterproductive. And ultimately, like prohibition itself, it creates resentment against police."
5. Dispensaries should continue with acts of civil disobedience
To pressure the government to move forward with legalization, Emery urges dispensaries to continue defying the old laws:
"Keep doing what you're doing. And keep opening after you're busted. Because we are going to prevail. And it's likely going to cause some people suffering and some losses of inventory. But ultimately, we have to keep pushing. And we have to resist these ideas that the government can be putting our culture in the hands of people who aren't entitled to it and don't understand it."
6. Emery urges Trudeau government to take action
Emery believes the new Liberal government should act on its campaign promise, beginning now.
"Step one: Stop the arrests from marijuana," he says. "If you want to show that you're sincere, you can't allow people to continue to get charged, otherwise there's something insincere about that if he doesn't do it."