While many former Canadian cops and public servants are entering the burgeoning marijuana industry with their own business ventures, activists Marc and Jodie Emery are being railroaded for helping get us here.
On Monday, in a downtown Toronto courtroom, the Emerys were forced to plead guilty to the charges of possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking, trafficking marijuana, and possession of the proceeds of crime.
When all was said and done, the “Prince and Princess of Pot” avoided going to prison, but now have a fine and victim surcharge of $195,000 each and two years’ probation.
The charges stem from a chain of unlicensed recreational dispensaries, in various major cities across the nation, that carried the Cannabis Culture brand name. A brand that was created and developed by the Emerys into an iconic symbol of marijuana reform for the Great White North.
On March 6, Marc and Jodie were arrested outside Pearson International Airport as part of a massive takedown of the entire Cannabis Culture organization. The controversial and gargantuan effort, spearheaded by Toronto Police, included the raids of several franchises and the prosecution of various employees.
Marc and Jodie have since been banned from having any direct business involvement with Cannabis Culture. This recent verdict provided further insult to injury for two people who stoked the flames of legalization decades before it was even considered a possibility.
“I’m happy that the 17 [employees] had all charges withdrawn,” said an emotional Jodie Emery in an interview with Marijuana.com. “I’m definitely happy that we didn’t get jail time because the judge said we should be going to jail for this.”
Emery added that she and Marc had no choice but to accept a plea deal in order to avoid prison, and to also help the others charged. The facts of the case brought forth by the prosecution, however, were fraught with inaccuracies regarding the amount of money the couple was making.
“I had to accept a plea deal which had a lot of information that was not accurate, but I can’t afford to fight it, and it’s really hard to prove when cops are lying,” said Jodie.
Jodie pointed out the prosecution and police claimed the Emerys received a $25,000 buy-in fee from each location, which she said simply isn’t true. She added that the “evidence” the police had regarding this amount was based on some notes Jodie had written down for future potential business deals that never came to fruition. “They also claimed [we made] a 6-10 percent gross of sales, which isn’t true. They make you look really bad.”
Jodie added the prosecution referenced the one month her and Marc actually made a profit and used that information as the benchmark to measure revenue for the whole venture. “They’re saying that is how much we made on a regular basis. In court, the Crown even stood up and said [they] know if we went to trial it would be difficult to prove [that accusation].” Jodie surmised the amount the prosecution claimed they made was quadruple what actually occurred.
If there are any positives to this unfortunate and seemingly hypocritical situation on behalf of Canada’s justice system, they were addressed by a member of the Emerys’ legal team. “My lawyer said if we’re not going to jail for what they are depicting as such a giant organization, then nobody else will go to jail for doing anything less. It will be really hard [after this verdict] to put other dispensary owners in jail.”
This take-one-for-the-team attitude has been the modus operandi for the Emerys throughout their existence as activists, including the five years Marc Emery spent in a United States Federal Prison for selling mail-order seeds across the border.
As for the exorbitant amount of money that both Marc and Jodie have been fined, they simply don’t have it, and Jodie is unsure how they will pay the almost $400,000 between the two of them. “We’ve been given two years to pay and I imagine we just make small payments. At that point, we appear in court and prove to them that we don’t have the means to pay for it,” said Jodie. “I can’t comprehend it; it’s such a crippling amount.”
Regardless of how the situation played out, Jodie has no regrets. “When I remember all the people who thanked us for improving their lives, it was worth it,” she said. “We did a beautiful thing, we never hurt anybody. We created such a great [business] model that the government is stealing it and doing it themselves. They’re taking everything that we did and doing it themselves and punishing us for having done it first.”
In November, former Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino, a one-time staunch opponent of legal pot who compared cannabis reform to legalizing murder, announced that he was getting into the marijuana business.
As Fantino cut the ribbon to his new venture, opening the door to profits he will now enjoy, Marc and Jodie’s lawyers were preparing to negotiate what would turn out to be a massive fine they cannot possibly pay.
As for Marc and Jodie, they have set up an online crowdfunding account in the hopes that the public will come to their aid.