What’s it take to get a white guy picked up on cannabis charges in downtown Montreal in post-legalization Canada? Longtime Toronto-based marijuana advocate Marc Emery found out on Sunday the answer is: rather a lot. The Montreal Gazette reports that Emery spent upwards of two hours loudly hawking marijuana-emblazoned merch in front of a government-run cannabis store, which he says is illegal under current law. His pop-up was an attempt to confront the state’s legal system over what Emery sees as major failings in the new Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act.
According to Emery, the offending language in the legislation is the section declaring that, “any operator of a business selling, giving, or exchanging a product that is not cannabis and contains a name, logo, slogan associated directly with the SQDC, a brand of cannabis or an authorized producer” is eligible for a fine of up to $62,500 Canadian.” In addition, “any person … not complying with the standards established by the government in matters of promotion” of cannabis is liable to a fine of between $5,000 and $500,000.”
What Exactly is Emery Fighting?
Emery’s issue is not that he would like to be able to sell the pot leaf flags, 420 stickers, and Bob Marley shirts that he brought along for his one-man protest action. Rather, he is concerned that the government’s end game is to take over and subvert both both the cannabis industry and cannabis user culture.
“Ultimately the Quebec government, and I suspect the federal government and many other provincial governments want to get rid of cannabis culture paraphernalia shops entirely and the gov’t be the exclusive handler of our culture,” Emery shared on Twitter. The advocate appears to use his social media account on the site to post cannabis news, op-eds, and retweet the white supremacist-signaling comments of Conservative Parliament member Maxime Bernier.
The Montreal Gazette reports that the activist was “gently chiding” customers of the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC) store as they waited for their weed in the cold.
“All these things are illegal in Quebec under the Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act,” Emery is reported to have yelled while conducting his protest pop-up. “You can’t (sell) any products with 420 on it, or the cannabis leaf or any kind of promotional sayings, so I’ve got T-shirts, illegal banned flags, and everything is a lot cheaper than normal because I’m not really doing it for the money. I’m just trying to get charged.”
He nearly succeeded around 2:30 p.m., when the Gazette reports that two Montreal police officers arrived. But when they threatened to book him under a municipal bylaw that bans permit-less outside retail, Emery decided to pack up. It wasn’t the law he was there to protest, after all.
“I’ll have to come up with a new strategy where I won’t be deterred by some municipal bylaw,” he told the Gazette.
If the incident seems to have been concocted for media attention alone, rest assured that Emery has more than proven that he is ready to do time in the name of cannabis culture. He spent upwards of four years in jail after being extradited to the United States for selling cannabis seeds by mail to US customers. In 2016, he was arrested and eventually fined for operating six illegal Cannabis Culture dispensaries in Montreal. His response? To open more illegal dispensaries — at one point there were 19 Cannabis Culture locations in three different Canadian provinces.