TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s so-called “Prince of Pot” and his wife were charged Thursday with multiple drug-related charges after being arrested in Toronto.
Lawyer Jack Lloyd said Marc Emery and his wife, Jodie Emery, were taken into custody at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Wednesday evening.
Court documents show the two face trafficking, drug possession and proceeds of crime charges.
Emery was sentenced to five years in prison on drug distribution charges by a U.S. federal judge in Seattle, Washington in September 2010 after pleading guilty to selling marijuana seeds to U.S. customers.
The couple owns the Cannabis Culture brand, which has a chain of 19 marijuana dispensaries operating openly in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Police raided Cannabis Culture stores in several cities Thursday.
The federal government is moving to legalize marijuana, but people are already setting up retail outlets selling pot for recreational use. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said Thursday that five people were arrested and 11 search warrants were executed in Ontario and Vancouver on Thursday as part of Project Gator. Pugash said details of the charges were being finalized.
He says seven Cannabis Culture locations, five in Toronto, one in Hamilton and another in Vancouver, were searched along with two homes in Toronto, one in Stoney Creek, Ont., and one in Vancouver.
No employees of the dispensaries were arrested, Pugash said.
“Our history of enforcing the law against illegal cannabis dispensaries is well established,” he said. “This is the latest effort in our law enforcement, and I’m certain there will be further action.”
Nadia Conte, 36, was at one of the Toronto dispensaries raided Thursday and said she doesn’t understand why police are spending resources on the raids.
“In my opinion, these places help keep weed regulated,” she said. “People used to go to dealers but now dealers go there to buy their weed. And, all you have to do is show ID for some places, and boom, you get weed. I think it’s a safer option for most people.”
Police forces across the country have been raiding pot shops in recent months and charging owners with trafficking-related offences.
Emery was previously arrested at one of his new Montreal dispensaries in December and charged with drug trafficking.
A Vancouver-based lawyer for the Emerys said in a statement that “several cannabis activists” have been arrested in addition to his clients.
“Co-ordinated country-wide raids attempting, futilely, to enforce an outdated and harmful law degrades public confidence in the administration of justice, wastes valuable taxpayer funds, wastes scarce police, prosecutorial and judicial resources and benefits precisely no one,” Kirk Tousaw said.