Drugs

Toronto Police Just Targeted Marc and Jodie Emery in Country-Wide Dispensary Raids

They’re calling it Project Gator.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
March 9, 2017, 6:00pm

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Marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery were arrested at Toronto Pearson Airport Wednesday and their national dispensary chain is now being raided as part of Project Gator, a large-scale coordinated crackdown by Toronto police.

Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer and cannabis advocate, said on Facebook Thursday that the couple, who owns Cannabis Culture dispensaries, was being detained pending a bail hearing at Old City Hall. He said fellow Cannabis Culture partners Chris and Erin Goodwin and Britney Anne Guerra were also arrested.

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In a news release, Toronto police said  on Thursday morning "11 Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act search warrants were executed in Toronto, the Hamilton area and Vancouver as part of Project Gator, a Toronto Police Service project targeting marijuana dispensaries." It noted that charge details will follow.

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash told VICE search warrants were executed at five dispensaries in Toronto, one in Hamilton, and one in Vancouver, and at four private residences—two in Toronto, one in Stoney Creek, one in Vancouver. He would not say why Cannabis Culture was the only dispensary chain targeted.

"I think when the case goes to court that'll become clear."

Pugash said no employees were arrested.

According to Leafly, Rex Mekkem, a manager at the Hamilton location said cops had taken employees' cellphones as evidence.

"They're just taking everybody's names and everybody's phones and kicking us loose, because it has to do with Toronto, they said."

Asked why Toronto police would go after dispensaries in other cities, Pugash said, "You go wherever the evidence takes you."

He didn't say how many officers were involved in the operation, only that there were enough "to make sure it was safe."

According to the Vancouver Sun, a dozen Vancouver police officers raided the flagship downtown shop Thursday morning. The Ottawa location of Cannabis Culture was also raided Thursday.

The Emerys own around 20 Cannabis Culture shops across Canada. The first Toronto store opened just after the city-wide Project Claudia raids. They sell weed to anyone who is legal age, no prescription required.

Pugash said dispensary owners are being disingenuous to the public by saying they operate in a "grey area" when in fact they are completely illegal.

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"This is about money. It's about making large amounts of money and anyone who pretends otherwise I think is misleading."

He also said there are health risks in dispensary products, citing CBC and Globe and Mail stories that tested weed and found mould and insecticide. (One Globe story found a banned pesticide in Health Canada approved medical marijuana.)

Pugash said he's not concerned that the public will view the operation as a waste of resources in light of pending legalization.

"The idea that we ignore the law because it's going to be changed is a curious argument at best."

Both the Emerys and the Goodwins have been arrested before and Marc Emery has been imprisoned several times, including a five-year stint in the US for drug distribution.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.