Illegal Pot Shops in Montreal Open to Crowds and Fanfare, Raided Next Day

The Emerys’ ten new cannabis shops are on a collision course with government officials.

Illegal Pot Shops in Montreal Open to Crowds and Fanfare, Raided Next Day

Merry Jane wrote earlier this week about Marc and Jodie Emery, a cannabis-loving Canadian couple with a devotion to civil disobedience. Earlier this month they hinted at their intent to expand their illegal chain of Cannabis Culture dispensaries beyond its twelve existing branches in British Columbia and Ontario into Montreal, Quebec. Jodie then revealed the locations of three stores set to open for business on a radio program Tuesday, while hinting that more shops in Montreal were to come. It turns out the Emerys had a more aggressive business plan in the works than many had anticipated. On Thursday they announced at a press conference that they would open a total of ten pot shops in Montreal this month: six which opened the same day, two for which they were awaiting business permits, and two more slated to open before the end of the year. By Friday evening, the first six locations had been raided by police, and Marc Emery had been arrested for the twenty-ninth time in Canada for crimes concerning marijuana, but he says that it’s “all part of the plan.”

Before the fuzz intervened, the Emerys made it clear to media present at one of their new shops on Thursday that the impetus for opening so many stores was to accelerate the pace of cannabis legalization in Canada. They contend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is moving too slowly in his efforts to pursue cannabis legalization despite promises made during his electoral campaign. “Marijuana prohibition has never been legitimate, there has never been a real public policy reason for why this law exists,” Marc said at the event. “It’s a complete abomination…and anyone who enforces this despicable law is a despicable person.”At their dispensaries anyone over the age of 19 can purchase quality-controlled cannabis, on which the dispensaries pay tax to municipalities. Jodie highlighted their mission to end criminal prosecution of cannabis users and suppliers, stating, "As activists our purpose and our goal is to be treated as normal citizens.” She added that although the Canadian government is moving forward with developing a framework for reform, as evidenced by a federal task force report released this week which endorsed marijuana legalization, that’s even more reason for activists to apply additional pressure: "Legalization is only coming about because people pushed and broke the lawThis industry didn't come out of nowhere. People have sacrificed, campaigned, been punished, demonized, persecuted all because of prohibition." Marc then closed the presser by asking “Who wants a free nug?” and gave out samples to would-be customers. Lines reportedly ran around the block at the new stores, with patrons willing to wait in standing snow and freezing temperatures for the convenience of retail bud.

The city did give the Emerys fair warning of their intent to interfere, as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre tweeted earlier this week that there would be “zero tolerance” for any violations of standing laws on cannabis, and that the city would make use of all tools at its disposal to enforce them. On Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau, who previously promised that legislation to legalize cannabis will be introduced in Parliament next year, spoke out on Montreal’s new stores, stating, “The reason we are legalizing and controlling marijuana is not for any other reason than to better protect our kids and to remove the black market, the criminal elements, organized crime, from profiting massively from the sale of cannabis,” concluding that, “Until we’ve changed the law, the current laws exist and apply.” By Friday afternoon, Montreal police had made good on Trudeau’s word, raiding all six currently open shops and arresting ten employees, including Marc Emery. However the Montreal Gazette reports that the Emerys and associates were aware of the impending likelihood of a raid, having noticed undercover officers already surveilling their stores. Marc told the Gazette Friday afternoon, “They would be hard-pressed not to arrest me, but you know that’s all part of the plan…I want to demonstrate that’s exactly what’s going to happen. That’s what legalization under Mr. Trudeau and [Montreal Mayor] Coderre looks like.”

Jodie was more distressed about Marc being proven right at the time of his arrest, telling CBC News Friday, "We have thousands of supporters in this city lining up to show their support and yet the police are using the tax dollars to do something no one supports…I'm asking the police to please let Marc Emery go." However if Cannabis Culture’s other recent expansion into Toronto this past September is instructive, then the Montreal shops may not be out of commission for long. Its company policy to reopen “the next day” after a raid, and the Ontario locations, which faced raids and subsequent criminal cases, are still selling kush today. For the Emerys, this just seems to be an unfortunate part of doing business and agitating for immediate legalization—Jodie is already organizing a protest for Saturday, and Marc remained defiant as ever during his arrest, yelling, "This arrest is wrong and the prohibition is wrong, and the prime minister is a disgrace!”

Written on December 17, 2016 by

Bill Kilby

Bill Kilby is an independent journalist based in Los Angeles whose work has appeared at VICE and the Washington Post. Find him on Twitter @billkilby_.