A Toronto pot shop refused to lose even one full day of business after another round of police raids last week.
Cannabis Culture’s Queen St. E. location was one of three dispensaries targeted Wednesday. There was a total of nine arrests and charges laid for possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime, and of those nine arrests, four happened at Cannabis Culture. These raids come just a few months after police busted 43 different dispensaries across the city, and just as they did last time, police took all of the cannabis products and money on site.
But the shop opened its doors again on Thursday as per usual. It’s not surprising, given that the Cannabis Culture shops are an extension of Jodie and Marc Emery’s brand. The couple are investors in the shops, which are run as a franchise. Jodie has demanded that police justify the arrests, and also that Trudeau expedite the process of legalizing cannabis nationally. She says Cannabis Culture shops will open and reopen no matter how many times police shut them down.
Emery explained her demands to Civilized via email from Mexico City, where she is a guest at Expoweed.
Sarah Ratchford: Cannabis Culture opened its doors again the day after the raid. What propelled that decision?
Jodie Emery: Cannabis Culture has twenty-two years of activism history in this country. Marc Emery has always reopened his businesses after raids, except for the United States DEA raid in Vancouver, Canada in 2005 that shut down the Marc Emery Direct Seeds seed business to stop legalization funding. We refuse to be bullied out of business by police, governments, and use of force. That has always been the way Cannabis Culture operates and that's a big part of why there's been cannabis reform in Canada since Marc began in 1994.
Sarah: Although it's still illegal to operate a dispensary, you've said that police targeting of dispensaries is a misuse of public funds. How so?
Jodie: Police should use resources on violent and dangerous crimes that have victims. Dispensaries have no victims and no harm done, and the majority of the public — and courts — support dispensaries, so it is not in the public interest to use policing resources raiding dispensaries and harming harmless people with harassment and criminal records.
Sarah: You've also made public demands that government and police stop targeting dispensaries. Have you received any kind of response?
Jodie: No. The only response has been a continuation of prohibition law enforcement, worse than ever seen even under the Harper Government.
Sarah: Cannabis is set to be legalized next year. What do you hope that will look like?
Jodie: I hope for proper legalization where there is no more criminalization. But the Liberals have made it clear they intend to introduce harsher punishments and to continue arresting peaceful harmless people. The Liberal legalization plan is a sham, as they make it very clear their laws will be designed to "restrict access and limit access,” which is the language of prohibition, not legalization. The Liberals say they do not want to normalize cannabis, so they will continue to demonize it, as we have been seeing very clearly since the 2015 election.
Sarah: How are you feeling now about remaining open despite the threat of future raids? Do you think it's likely your shop will be raided again, and if so, what will your response be?
Jodie: We at Cannabis Culture have been recognized as leaders of legalization activism in Canada for decades now, because of our commitment to peaceful, civil disobedience in order to win freedom for all cannabis consumers and advocates. We have paid the price numerous times, suffering raids and arrests, and imprisonment in a foreign country — and we have been welcomed to countries around the world now that Marc is finally free from his five years as a political prisoner in the United States for leading and financing legalization worldwide. We will never give up, no matter what the government does to us. We are the peaceful, harmless activists and they are the men with guns and threats of harm and criminalization. We are on the correct side of history, and as everyone can now see — we were right. But the fight isn't over yet, because governments never give freedom to the people; freedom is always won through the courts and peaceful revolution. That is why we will continue to campaign for freedom and liberty.
Banner Image: Jodie Emery at a 2013 "Global Marijuana March" event in Vancouver. (Cannabis Culture / Flickr)