Globe and Mail: No, Retail Marijuana is Not – Yet – Legal

Article by The Globe and Mail

Marc Emery, founder of the Cannabis Culture dispensary chain, in one of his recreational cannabis storefronts in Montreal last December

The arrest in Toronto on Wednesday of Marc Emery, one of North America’s leading pot legalization advocates, may seem draconian to his many supporters. But the law is the law, and those who are alleged to flout it risk arrest, regardless of their reasons for doing so.

No one knows this better than Mr. Emery. A diehard libertarian, he once spent four days in jail for violating Ontario’s Sunday shopping laws. More famously, in 2005 he was arrested and eventually extradited to the United States, where he was sentenced to five years in prison for selling marijuana seeds to American customers.

Now he and his wife, Jodie, face numerous new charges, including trafficking, after their arrest as part of a crackdown by Toronto police on illegal pot sales in pop-up stores that bill themselves as “dispensaries.”

The charges relate to five dispensaries in Toronto operating under the Cannabis Culture brand which is co-owned by the Emerys. There are also Cannabis Culture dispensaries in Ottawa, Hamilton, Peterborough, Ont., Vancouver and Montreal. Police in Montreal raided eight outlets in December and Mr. Emery faces trafficking charges in that city, too.

This latest arrest of the man known as the Prince of Pot brings into sharp focus the slightly surreal situation in which pot retailers and the police now find themselves. It all goes back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to legalize marijuana for recreational use. (It is already legal for medicinal purposes.)

Mr. Trudeau promised to table legislation this spring, but some people opportunistically seized on his election in 2015 to immediately exploit a grey zone between the current laws and whatever the Liberals eventually propose. Storefronts have been popping up all over the country, selling pot to anyone, with or without a medical prescription. It’s chaos. But that’s the fault of those ignoring the law as it is, and instead operating according to what they think the law should be.

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