Canadian marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery said their arrests last week at Toronto Pearson Airport and the subsequent storefront dispensary raids across Canada were part of a collective effort by law enforcement to target their pot distribution operation.
“They knew we were going to Europe for 12 days and they were going to raid all of our businesses the day after and we needed to be, as the head of it all, we needed to be arrested and that’s why,” Marc Emery said during an interview on Global’s The Morning Show on Monday.
The Emerys said the federal government is sending them a message for pushing the marijuana agenda and controlling the sale and distribution of pot.
“They have been planning this for nine months, spending millions and millions of dollars, using hundreds and hundreds of officers amid an opioid crisis that is killing hundreds in this province,” Marc said.
The Emerys, who owns the Cannabis Culture brand, were released on bail last Friday just two days after they were arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport as they were leaving to attend a cannabis expo in Barcelona, Spain.
“Unjust. I would say it was appalling,” Jodie Emery said. “I’m quite disturbed by the fact that we are innocent until proven guilty, yet Cannabis Culture, which is a magazine, head shop, vapour lounge, it’s a movement.”
“We’ve been stripped of our ability to engage in that at all. I can’t even go to our political party headquarters in Vancouver.”
VIDEO: The “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery along with wife Jodie leave a Toronto courthouse after posting bail Friday.
Five Cannabis Culture locations in Toronto, one in Hamilton and one in Vancouver were raided and police said search warrants were also executed on two Toronto residences, one in Vancouver and one in Stoney Creek, Ont.
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.
Cannabis Culture franchise owners Chris Goodwin, 37, Erin Goodwin, 31, and Britney Guerra, 29, were also arrested and charged with similar offences.
The Emerys said they were denied the opportunity to contact their lawyers in the first few hours after their arrests.
“I was strip-searched twice and I’ve written a lot about the injustice of prohibition. They way that peaceful people are subject to sadistic treatment by cops and prisons,” Jodie said.
“We’ve never hurt anyone and yet we’re forced to go through this horrible procedure.”
Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott said last week the federal government is committed to introducing legislation to legalize marijuana by the end of the spring but admitted regulatory processes can take time before the new law takes effect.
VIDEO: Minister of Health Jane Philpott confirmed on Thursday during Question Period that the government is only legalizing access to cannabis and no other substances.
“Clearly any legislation that gets introduced has to go through the parliamentary process,” Philpott told reporters in Ottawa last Thursday. “It has to be duly considered by the House of Commons and ultimately the Senate as well. And there are often regulatory processes that have to be put in place so people need to recognize that things take time. This is something that has to be done correctly.”
Marijuana advocates say the current law is in a legal gray zone which has allowed a number of dispensaries to open up across the country despite continued enforcement by police.
“The law is unjust. When the law is wrong there are many different social issues where breaking that law peacefully with civil disobedience has helped change the law,” said Jodie Emery.
“In fact, legalization is only happening and licenced producers only exist because of dispensaries and patients breaking the law, going to court, and winning.”
Marc Emery, who has been arrested 30 times and served five years in U.S. prisons for selling marijuana seeds south of the border, said he is prepared to go to jail once again.
“I’ve been exiled and abused by my own government at every level. City of Vancouver, City of Toronto, Province of Ontario, Province of B.C., the federal government of Canada. I’m used to the abuse and I’m famous because of it,” he said.