Several Canadian police forces teamed up to make coordinated raids on Cannabis Culture outlets across the country today.
Vancouver police, who in recent years have taken a hands-off approach to unlicensed medical cannabis dispensaries operating in the city, have confirmed that they raided the Cannabis Culture location on West Hastings Street this morning at the request of Toronto police.
A total of 11 dispensaries have been targeted in what Toronto cops have called Project Gator.
Owners Marc and Jodie Emery were arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport last night on their way to a pot festival in Europe, according to lawyer Kirk Tousaw, and raids are took place at franchise outlets in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa.
— Cannabis Culture (@CannabisCulture) March 9, 2017
The couple were held overnight at Toronto police’s 51 Division and were scheduled to appear in Old City Hall court today on trafficking charges, but their bail hearing has been pushed to tomorrow as police continue to raid outlets. So far a total of 32 drug-related charges have been filed against the Emerys, along with Chris and Erin Goodwin, the owners of Good Weeds Vapor Lounge, and Britney Guerra.
Roughly a dozen supporters were also at the courthouse this morning, and protesters outside the Vancouver location have staged a sit-in on the sidewalk outside that can be viewed live on Facebook.
The federal government is moving slowly to legalize recreational cannabis use, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly emphasized that police have a duty to enforce existing laws.
So tired of being threatened with prison for choosing to consume something safer than alcohol, tobacco or coffee. Fuck off @JustinTrudeau
— Jeremiah Vandermeer (@JFromTheLake) March 9, 2017
Both Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and the VPD have declined to comment as the operation is being led by Toronto police.
Marc Emery, the self-styled “Prince of Pot,” has been arrested numerous times over the years on pot-related charges and served nearly five years in a U.S. federal prison for selling cannabis seeds via mail to Americans.
There are about 20 Cannabis Culture shops across the country that sell products to anyone over the age of 19 and many do not restrict sales to medical marijuana patients with prescriptions.
“Despite what the dispensary owners and advocates will try to tell you, that the law has a grey area – there is no grey area. It’s against the law,” said Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash. “People who are running these illegal businesses are making large amounts of money. The law says it’s illegal and we will continue to enforce the law.”