Moving Beyond Cannabis Culture: An Interview with Jodie Emery

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It’s impossible to look at the history of marijuana activism in Canada and not think of Marc and Jodie Emery. Their decades-long fight with the powers that be have culminated into a good part of the reason we are heading toward adult-use cannabis across the nation.

Throughout this battle, they have lost everything, and regained it again, just to lose it once more. The perfect example of this would be the four years Marc Emery spent in a U.S. prison for openly selling mail-order seeds across the border.

Canada’s unwillingness to stop this extradition of a nonviolent “criminal” was a stark example of a government not supportive of the needs of cannabis users everywhere.

Now, we are at a point where Canada is scheduled to legalize marijuana for everyone 18 and older. Despite that fact, the Emerys have once again been targeted by authorities; and this time, the government has taken away a most precious possession — their life’s work.

This week, as part of their bail conditions, Marc and Jodie have been forced to cut all ties with their brand Cannabis Culture.

Yesterday, Marijuana.com reported the facts on the ground as Jodie Emery headed to Vancouver to remove herself as director of the company. Once that task was complete Jodie took the time to speak with us about the reality she and her husband must confront.


What does it feel like to hand over something that you essentially put your blood, sweat and tears into?

When I moved to Vancouver in 2004 I wanted to do activism so I started working with Marc Emery at Cannabis Culture Magazine and Pot TV. In 2005, I was made the Assistant Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine. I spent every day slaving away over that beautiful print publication and also engaging in activism because that very same year Marc was facing life in prison. I took great pride in what I did.

It’s not just a magazine, a head shop, a vapour lounge or dispensaries, it’s an idea of what legalization looks like. It’s a mission statement for people who believe that we shouldn’t go to prison for a plant. So, it is deeply upsetting to have to give up my involvement with what really has been my identity since I became an adult.

Now that you are free and clear of your business obligations, what are your next steps?

Marc and I are going to do a cross-Canada tour, because we need to have a marijuana truth tour. Right now [MP] Bill Blair is going across Canada and telling all of the police to enforce the [current] laws.

We need to educate the public on the facts about marijuana and remind them that this is a civil liberties issue. We have to make sure no one is being arrested anymore before people are able to profit. We need to talk about how marijuana is a safer choice for recreational consumption than alcohol and talk about the opioid crisis which is extremely newsworthy right now because so many people are dying.

How is Marc handling all this? I know he spent years locked up in a U.S. prison, which by comparison is much harsher, but how is he taking the loss of Cannabis Culture?

Marc is very used to this. He has been arrested, raided and jailed so many times. Marc has had everything taken from him numerous times and he always comes back, builds up again and fights for the cause.

He’s taking it well and he is giving me a hard time because I haven’t been arrested and put in jail before, except for Montreal, but I was arrested for four hours at a hotel, not too hard. This time I actually went to jail so I experienced what people go through and that was upsetting.

At the same time, Marc is wondering what to do next. He’s had many decades of work behind him and he’s tired of all this prohibition nonsense. I’m sure he would like to finally just retire and relax.

Are you concerned about your charges? Do you think they will be dropped?

My concern about our charges is that they’re conspiracy charges. That is a very broad charge to lay on somebody because you don’t even need to commit a crime to be found guilty. The fact that three people agree to break the law makes a conspiracy. They have chosen a very easy way to give us tough punishments and these allegations are very serious.

This government very much wants to shut us up, since they were unable to do so even when they called in the U.S. government to do it for them [through Marc’s previous sentence]. Our [case] will be in the court for a number of years and we do intend to fight it to the fullest. That will probably include a Charter challenge, where we will try to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the validity of prohibition entirely.

Do you think that the severity of the charges against you were because you were selling adult-use cannabis to anyone 19 or older, as opposed to at the very least, only selling to those with a prescription?

[Our]  stores being for 19+ adults and not pretending to be recreational was groundbreaking and a lot of people thought we were very courageous to do that.

It was something we wanted to do differently than everyone, but we were also addressing the concern people had about Canadians faking their illnesses or paying doctors for access. We thought we could just do away from that model, which was half farce and half unfairness for those who are [actually] sick.

We said time and time again, this is what legalization looks like. For the government and the licensed producers and police, they don’t like that model of legalization. They don’t want people to see that vision, they want people to accept their limited oligopoly.

We don’t have a liquor registry where if you want to drink booze you have to sign up with the government and give them your information, but for marijuana right now that’s what they are doing.

For myself, part of my bail conditions say that I have to use government-approved marijuana medically if I am going to possess any marijuana. In a very sad irony, what they are doing to me is what they are trying to do to Canada.

Do you have hope that things will change? Do you think that when adult-use marijuana comes into play that the government will have listened and that dispensaries will be a part of the mix?

It will take a lot of engagement for people to change the rules. Once it’s legal federally, it’s going to be up to the provinces and municipalities to do most of the regulating. We are going to need people to engage with their provincial governments to tell them what kind of model of distribution we should have.

Change will come, but it only comes when you keep pushing and campaigning. If you sit back and wait they will never do anything. That’s why it’s so important to push the envelope.

So to end on a happy note, what is your fondest memory of running Cannabis Culture?

The people. The wonderful love that we all have for this plant and this culture. It is almost spiritual in a way. It’s a calling that we know this plant is not just a simple little garden flower or vegetable.

We know that cannabis can help save lives. It can prevent people from dying, from sickness, or hard drugs. It’s endless the way this plant can truly help people. It sounds insane, but it’s more true than any god that I have ever heard of.


As Canada edges closer to some form of adult use cannabis, however that may emerge, the Emery’s will do everything in their power to ensure Canadians are given the access they deserve.

It’s clearly not just about being able to get high in peace, it’s about what we are allowed to do as adults in a free society. From Jodie’s point of view, marijuana may be the focus, but freedom to choose is and always has been the ultimate goal.

 

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.

12 Comments

  1. In the early days of non-prohibition of alcohol in Canada there were “liquor commissions” where you had to show ID in order to buy alcohol. The key is to show people, by responsible use, that cannabis is not the scourge they have been brainwashed to believe it is. I applaud the Emerys, and understand their frustration over the way the Liberals are going about ending prohibition, but I wish they had spent a bit more time working behind the scenes, perhaps with lobbyists, to influence opinion with th shakers and movers. If you are in a room with a sick gorilla, it makes sense to tread carefully.

  2. Right on Mark and Jody,keep fighting the good fight,we the people are with you .please keep us up on what we can do to help out Most Canadians love you.Dan the treeman from ontario

  3. Rot in a CELL… PRINCESS OF PROFITING FULL of Bullshit
    Sociopaths never get anywhere in life, neither will you
    Cry the Crocodile tears to the 2 people that commented
    LOL 🙂

  4. Lawrence Goodwin on

    The Emerys are legends is the restoration of cannabis commerce. I hear Ms. Jodie loud and clear regarding the shared love for such plants.

    We must always remember how prohibitive “marihuana” laws were forced on Canada and many other nations by one delusional man, Harry Anslinger; a heartless federal bureaucrat in the United States who literally poisoned generations with his miserable publicity stunts. The same types of cannabis seeds that Marc Emery got busted for were legal to grow virtually everywhere for thousands of years—until Anslinger had organized his pathetic congressional hearing in April 1937 that lasted 2.5 hours. Most “marihuana” commerce was being demonized in the media and targeted by U.S. government agents by the end of that year. Enter the absolute tyranny, with neither checks nor balances, unleashed against our lovely cannabis plants every single day since.

    Still, considering that whole thing about our “freedom to choose,” I sincerely hope the Emerys don’t lose their freedom over this. Their mutual decision to sell weed to the public, unregulated, was a huge, casino-style risk, and they ended up losing it all. Now they have to deal with the consequences of those choices. Clearly, they will be far less effective in this continuous struggle if they are bogged down in a legal quagmire for years.

    • Salutations,

      Actually “Indian Hemp” was added to the “poison” list of “Annexe A” from Québec’s “Loi de Pharmacie” that got approved under the reign of Queen Victoria (as part of a British Dominion) in 1885… 1937 refers about USA’s history instead, which occured some ~52 years LATER… Not to mention it eclipses another very relevant fact: it was a LIBERAL DOCTOR named Henri-Sévérin Béland who 1st banned cannabis on a national scale in 1923, in pure denial of elementary democracy. In other words the errors of judgment had already stated to pile up long before the plant was even a real cause for concern, e.g. after 1937…

      As a matter of fact i now deeply believe it was bigot anti-cannabic prohibitionists exactly who caused the worse permanent prejudice of all, by an order of magnitude, for constantly failing to address (and hence eventually fix) the consumption method. Personally i can at least comment the consumption method impacted greatly on my consumer’s profile and i suspect this perspective can even help others, if allowed… But all those “elite” politicians could think of was more vilification, while pretending to “save” our youth from the fires of hell (…), whatever, though they actually watched many generations poison themselves because of combustion (predatory taxation + toxic compounds), including for my own generation.

      In other words the studies are about the “HARM” of smoking, aromatized with cannabis, not the other way around. Which translates to multi-intoxication dynamics, etc., etc., hence it invalidates decades of data on top of the simple fact that the evil plant has been patented for its neuroprotective properties, etc. Too bad all full truth ain’t making it to late night TV news on Canuck land and i seriously fear Trudeau will try his best to stretch it until the United Nation are ready to revise the international ban that high-profile UN insiders denounced the very next day after UNGASS 2016: he already announced his intentions on 4-20 last year, in a most ambiguous way through Hilary Geller as the Liberal’s emissary (Harper’s legacy)… Supporting UN’s non-sensical “science” would transfer the burden of shame on UN’s shoulders and allow Justin to prentend he’s not guilty for anything when in fact he paved the way just like his Liberal predecessors in the previous century.

      I agree 1937 is still a true corner stone in North-American history when it comes to the “war on drugs” but i’d argue it was much easier to manipulate the populace after decades of unchallenged propaganda. Each date is important and the Liberals would prefer we don’t dig too deep, which is why i feel like bringing it back to the surface when occasions as this occur.

      Hoping you don’t mind for these additions…

      😉

      Good day, have fun!!

      children

      did was t

      • Lawrence Goodwin on

        Those are great additions, Real Guy. Thanks for reading and correcting the history. I know there were more state and local anti-cannabis measures imposed during the early 1920s in the United States as well—yet our first federal law in ’37 did unleash the “marihuana” darkness that still bears down on millions of U.S. citizens 80 years later.

  5. Mark and Jody have been a powerful force pushing toward legalization. They won’t be easily or effectively silenced. But it would be a true shame to see them put in jail given the government has already taken away their livelihood.

    Canada needs to pick up the pace of legalization. They have committed to do it, and decriminalization should have been the first step. Why keep putting people in jail when you know the path leads to legalization?

    Canada is hurting its reputation in the world by punishing its citizens and jailing them for doing something they (the government) have already committed to making legal. That is not the behavior of a progressive country.

    • « They have committed to do it… »

      No, they have made many Canadians think that was what they pretended to do, which ain’t equivalent. So i’d advise we try not to confuse (traditional media, etc.) houses of mirrors with blatant TrudeauMania.

      Maybe i need to remind everyone reading here that the 1st homicide by police over weed occured in Montréal/Québec, etc. I just wish i didn’t feel so isolated doing it – but Trudeau exploits language + regional differences to divide Canadians further so it appears to me that worked remarkably well so far.

      Good day, have fun!!

  6. Thank you for your efforts Jodie!

    Please join and post success stories on Facbook, Cannabis Achievers of the World!

    Cheers Jodie!

    Kevin Storm

  7. Best of Luck to both of you in your future activities concerning cannabis– being a lifetime hemp enjoyer and currently 81 y/o, I can attest to the benefits…THANK YOU for your courageous efforts to move a Country in the right direction… separating the facts from the paranoia– as spread by the Pharmaceuticals –is an enormous task!! I live in California and have a prescription and the freedom is wonderful!!!!! EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE THE FREEDOM TO GROW AND SMOKE THIS GOD-GIVEN LIFE ENHANCING PROBLEM-FREE AND WONDERFUL PLANT!!!

  8. Carl Alvin Erickson on

    Well I realize that even if you were to post to this I most likely couldn’t even access it on my 2 hour library time from past experience with hundreds of posts, so will take other course. Never the less I am surprised because I was about to ask where I could buy cannabis seeds verses hemp in bulk to ingest for electrons to attract photons when I realized it wouldn’t make that much difference. And now I read you were supplying maybe what I really need, whereas then it said pipes et cetera only. Change is occurring so fast for me anyway; like I really need to get the right essential nutrition. When I was authorized twice I would ask for a landrace sativa like original Thia (Thai stick) & received un-useable buds, now Rec. so don’t need the Auth. yet plan to call all the growers because the sellers don’t know how many fingers their strains have. Later Carl

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