By Adam Miller Online Journalist Global News
Marc and Jodie Emery, Canada’s self-proclaimed “Prince and Princess of Pot,” have been arrested in Toronto ahead of coordinated raids at their Cannabis Culture marijuana dispensaries across the country.
The couple’s Vancouver-based lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, said the marijuana activists were arrested at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Wednesday night and were being held in custody while awaiting bail hearings Thursday.
The Emerys own 19 Cannabis Culture marijuana dispensaries across Canada and Toronto police said Thursday they had executed 11 raids in connection with an investigation targeting the dispensaries — dubbed Project Gator.
Five Cannabis Culture locations in Toronto, one in Hamilton and one in Vancouver were raided and police said a total of five people had been arrested across the country in connection with the investigation.
Vancouver police confirmed to Global News they had raided one Cannabis Culture location in the city in conjunction with the Toronto police investigation. The Ottawa Cannabis Culture dispensary raid was reportedly not connected with the investigation.
Toronto police said they are still determining what charges will be laid, but said search warrants were also executed on two Toronto residences, one in Vancouver and one in Stoney Creek, Ont.
“Make no mistake, this is not about public safety. This is not about protecting the public,” Tousaw said in a statement.
“There is no harm being done by the production and sale of cannabis, for medical or recreational purposes, in storefront dispensaries.”
Marijuana legalization activists Amy Brown and Tracey Curley told Global News outside a Toronto courthouse Thursday they believed the Cannabis Culture locations were being “simultaneously raided.”
“From what we understand, is that various owners of Cannabis Culture franchises are now being arrested,” Curley said.
“Britney Guerra, the owner of Cannabis Culture Hamilton, was just recently arrested at her house in Hamilton.”
Curley said Cannabis Culture franchise owners Chris and Erin Goodwin were also “confronted by police” at the Toronto courthouse while they were waiting to provide bail money for the Emerys.
“They were arrested on site for possession for the purpose of trafficking,” she said. “[We are] a little shocked that it’s happening so fast and so quickly and so many people being affected right now.”
Brown said the arrests of franchise owners were “heartbreaking” but would not affect the operation of the dispensaries going forward.
“The cannabis industry is not going to change. It’s a small bump in the cannabis industry,” she said. “I’m assuming Cannabis Cultures will be back open in the next day or so.”
The Emerys were reportedly travelling to Barcelona, Spain to attend cannabis expo Spannabis, according to a Facebook post by Marc Emery.
Jodie Emery previously said she intended to open her latest location in Ottawa, just steps from the Parliament Buildings.
The 32-year-old recently appeared as a guest on AM980’s The Pulse with Devon Peacock after London Police raided five dispensaries in the city last Thursday.
The raids carried out by London Police took place two days after Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and current parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, came to London to visit with police leadership and city officials to discuss a regulatory framework for legalizing marijuana in Canada.
In December, 10 people were arrested by police in Montreal after raids on six newly opened Cannabis Culture dispensaries.
In May 2016, Toronto police raided dozens of marijuana dispensaries in the city, seized hundreds of kilograms of marijuana and laid more than 250 charges under an investigation dubbed Project Claudia.
Toronto police said at the time the raids were due to concerns over the “rapid increase of opening of illegal dispensaries” and the “lack of quality control” that could affect public health and safety.