Law & Politics, National, News, Spotlight

CAUGHT IN THE CROSS-HAIRS: Marc and Jodie Emery

By: David Bailey

Legalization has been sweeping the country. After years of debate, demonstrations and unfortunate amounts of jail time, cannabis is seeing a huge rise in popularity. So much so that in the United States alone there are 29 states with medical or recreational cannabis sales, and perhaps most shocking, our neighbors to the north have announced they will be the first North American country to nationally legalize!

There’s no doubt that Canada’s recreational marijuana legalization is a huge turn for the industry. Long known for having the best cannabis in the North, even our pop culture reflects the country’s longstanding love of pot, from figures such as Tommy Chong to Seth Rogen and Michael Cera. On the advocacy front, no one has achieved as much as Rick Simpson and Marc and Jodie Emery. While I wish I could say their run-ins with the law are over, the Canadian government has decided to renew its fight against the Emerys.

If you’ve ever picked up a Cannabis Culture Magazine, watched some Pot TV or had the unique opportunity to hang out in one of their lounges, you’ve been blessed by the Emery’s hard work and continued advocacy. Yet despite a lifelong fight for the cause and a momentary glimpse at the end of prohibition, Marc and Jodie Emery were arrested on March 9, 2017, citing “possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of the proceeds of a crime, and conspiracy to commit an indictable offense,” leaving them both facing life in prison.

“There have been bad laws, a law doesn’t make it right, and bad laws need to be broken by good people to demonstrate the injustice of those laws.”

With the current state of fringe legality in Canada, it remains to be seen why the government would bother attacking the very entity that helped create the prosperous and more unified cannabis industry. Jodie’s perspective was clear, stating that the situation is no different than any other government takeover of a profitable industry; you must clear the field of competitors first. Lobbying in Canada, just like the US, is a strangely legal way for private companies to throw millions of dollars at our politicians, only to ensure their own personal interest.

Much like the recreational markets that have developed in the US, the few “legal” or government-overseen medical marijuana producer/processors in Canada had to meet extreme regulatory oversight demands, which, as you can imagine, was very expensive. In an effort to turn their investments on end, many companies began to lobby politicians to regulate recreational cannabis the same way they had been forced to do for medical. There was one big problem with this, however—the already a vast network of recreational shops across Canada, which were flourishing under standard local business oversights.

With national legalization on the forefront, Canada, under the leadership of Parliamentary Secretary and former Chief of Police, Bill Blair, began to raid dispensaries. One hundred and ninety to be exact. Cannabis Culture clubs and hundreds of others were repeatedly raided, robbed and arrested. In one of the nation’s largest shows of greed and brute force, they disenfranchised and impoverished the very pioneers who led the fight to legalize. Jodie recalls that many have told her, “the law is the law, you should’ve gotten arrested.” Her response? “There have been bad laws, a law doesn’t make it right, and bad laws need to be broken by good people to demonstrate the injustice of those laws.” The reality, she further argues, is that “something should only be against the law if there’s a victim . . . but marijuana has no victims, prohibition manufactures the crime. Without the prohibition, there is no crime, there’s just a plant.”

As much as we would love altruism to be the focus of the cannabis industry, humans are, of course, susceptible to fault. We’ve seen greed arise in several ballot attempts across the US, and Florida infamously designed a system so restrictive that quite literally only the top one percent could even apply. It appears Canada is on a similar path. We’re not sure what lies ahead for Canada as it embarks into this unknown territory, but one thing we can all agree on, as Jodie says, is “that if anyone deserves a chance at selling weed finally, [we] say, ‘why not Marc Emery?’”

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