Opinion: Prince of Pot’s arrest was a publicity stunt and Montreal police fell for it

Dec 19 2016, 6:06 pm

This past Friday, Marc Emery, known as the Prince of Pot, was arrested by Montreal police for illegally opening six Cannabis Cultures stores in the city. He was charged with drug trafficking, possession for trafficking, and conspiracy. A day later, he was released on $5,000 bail and will not be allowed to smoke or sell pot as part of the conditions for his release until his court case sometime in February.

Emery, a long-time pot activist and Cannabis Culture co-owner was arrested at the Mont Royal location, along with his wife and 10 other people during the Friday police raids. During his arrest, the activist was heard yelling: “This arrest is wrong and the prohibition is wrong — and the prime minister is a disgrace.”

Jodie Emery, Marc’s wife and co-owner of their businesses quickly fired back on social media about her husband’s arrest, calling Justin Trudeau a “pot-smoker hypocrite” and then turned her attention to Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, asking why he was “wasting millions of tax dollars and arresting harmless people”. She also rightfully pointed out that no one was arrested during the extensive time Uber was operating illegally in the city.

There is no reason to question Marc Emery’s intentions. He’s been a prominent advocate for marijuana legalization in North America for decades and has been arrested over 30 times while attempting to end unjust criminalization and persecution.

But while his intentions may be sincere, he’s also a smart businessman currently eyeing extensive money-making opportunities in every possible aspect of the soon-to-be-legal pot industry, and his intent this past Saturday, when he openly defied the law by letting everyone know he was selling pot on Twitter, was to challenge authorities and force the media to talk about him. I mean, what was left after that? Hiring a plane to fly over the city with a banner?

He wanted to grab people’s attention and grab the market share before Canada legalizes marijuana and he succeeded. Mayor Coderre, citing “zero tolerance”, took the bait and immediately ordered police raids. A single night spent in a cell is ultimately a small price to pay for all that free publicity.

“I didn’t even know who Marc Emery was,” a friend of mine told me after the raids. To which I replied: “Exactly.”

I recognize that by flaunting the fact that he was selling pot Mayor Coderre and the SPVM may have felt that they had no choice but to react, but they really should have just let it go. A number of cities and states have already opted for that choice in the past once that pre-legalization grey zone has arrived – as is the case here in Canada.

Yes, “the law is the law” and until marijuana legislation is finalized, selling it continues to technically be illegal, but there’s a certain irony to watching 1920’s-prohibition-style police raids take place in a city where an afternoon hanging out at the Mont Royal Tam-Tams will get you high by proxy, you can’t attend any outdoor concert event without someone next to you passing a joint around (usually in the presence of police officers), and where most habitual pot smokers have their dealers’ number on speed dial.

I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t know someone who can get them weed if they want it in this town. Except, perhaps, the Montrealers lining up in freezing temperatures outside of Emery’s stores this past Friday, but I suspect most of those stoners were there because “History is being made, bro!” and less because they had nowhere else to buy pot.

At the end of the day, Montrealers don’t really need Emery. But Emery needs them. And he wants to make sure he establishes his well-earned reputation before every other independent operator moves in to benefit once legalization takes place.

And I don’t blame him for using this stunt as a springboard for his business ventures. If anyone deserves to profit from upcoming legalization why shouldn’t it be someone who understands the product better than most and who has spent the past 30 years or so paving the way for that to happen?

As founder of a magazine on pot, PotTV, Emery Seeds, founder of the BC Marijuana Party, and a fair number of Cannabis Culture stores across the country, not to mention spending five years in a US prison for selling marijuana seeds, Emery’s activism has pushed for pot legalization and brought the issue to the forefront on numerous occasions.

I could understand his stores receiving fines for breaking the law (a good way for the city to “save face” by enforcing current legislation and still bringing in some money to local coffers), but arresting someone for something that will most likely be legal within the year? What for? He’s not a danger to anyone, he’s selling a product to consenting adults, and it’s an utter waste of police resources. With the temps hovering around -25C that night, I would have much rather seen those police officers sent out on our streets making sure the city’s homeless were safe and warm, instead of raiding some shop where grown adults are purchasing a soon-to-be-legal product.

With the government tabling legislation this coming spring and a recent federal task force (containing 80 recommendations) concluding that selling pot be allowed to Canadians 18 years and older, all signs point to marijuana legalization.

Emery and his wife Jodie have made it very clear that they will pay taxes, employ locals, and will ensure that no minors enter their stores or purchase marijuana.

I see no problem here. Considering the number of vacancies in the city, Mayor Coderre should welcome new businesses ventures and let people who want to light up light up and just lighten up.