They opened to much fanfare but were swiftly shut down by the police, and in two days, five of the six Montreal Cannabis Culture locations will reopen — without the cannabis.
The five franchises will sell accessories and smoking paraphernalia, becoming what are known as head shops, explained Jodie Emery, who owns the Cannabis Culture chain along with her husband, the self-styled "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery.
The stores that will reopen are located at:
- 1863 Amherst Street.
- 8870 St-Michel Boulevard.
- 2200 Mount Royal Avenue East.
- 3804 Saint Laurent Boulevard.
- 1431B Bishop Street.
Cannabis Culture operates 12 shops across British Columbia and Ontario. The Montreal stores opened last month, and police raided them a day later.
During those raids, Marc Emery, who was working at the Mont-Royal Avenue store, was arrested and charged with drug trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy.
He will appear in court in Montreal next month.
Access for all
Jodie Emery said the franchisees are considering also having doctors on site who can sign people up for the Health Canada medical marijuana program, even if that doesn't fall exactly in line with their brand philosophy.
"We believe everyone deserves access [to marijuana], not just people who are sick or willing to lie about being sick," she said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
She said she was surprised by the reception the stores received from Mayor Denis Coderre, who denounced them publicly, and the police.
Emery compared her husband, who has been jailed numerous times for his activism, to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who opened the country's first abortion clinic while the practice was still illegal and eventually earned the Order of Canada for his work.
"Legalization [of marijuana] is only possible because activists have been willing to break the law to change the law," she said.
Shuttered stores costly for franchisees
Emery expressed skepticism that the Trudeau government will actually legalize marijuana this spring, as promised.
Regardless of the government's plans, she said she doesn't want to wait for legalization to start opening stores because "marijuana prohibition is wrong."
"What reason is there to justify arresting people for cannabis when the government itself sells deadly dangerous alcohol, tobacco, opioid pharmaceutical medications?" she asked.
Emery and her husband didn't lose money when the stores were shut down because the franchisees didn't pay them up front, she said, explaining that Cannabis Culture draws up franchise agreements based on percentage of sales.
The store owners are the ones who lost money, Emery said. She couldn't say exactly how much they've lost but estimated it at "quite a bit."
When asked whether new stores would be opening in the province, she said it's an idea that is "worth considering" if store owners are willing to "take a stand."