Last week police arrested Marc Emery for the 30th time. It is believed this is the first time he's been arrested since police in Montreal picked him up in December, but it's tough to keep track. Police also raided Cannabis Culture dispensaries owned by him and his partner Jodie in Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton. Emery faces 15 charges relating to distributing marijuana, and Jodie Emery has been charged with five such offences.
Some say what the dispensaries are doing is blatantly illegal, others say the issue exists inside of a legal grey area. By the time the courts make sense of it, however, the laws probably won’t exist anymore anyway.
The federal government plans on introducing legislation later this year which will legalize the sale and distribution of non-medicinal marijuana. Despite this the police just can't stop themselves from arresting Marc Emery.
To many this will seem as though the police were just arresting business owners who were operating outside the law, and this will not prevent true medical marijuana patients from accessing their medication. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. If it wasn't for the work of Marc Emery and other dispensary owners operating in a legal grey area, the quality of life for many medical marijuana patients would be greatly reduced.
Medical marijuana patients in Canada have three options:
1. Receive a license to grow their own marijuana
Growing enough marijuana for regular consumption without having access to high-end equipment is considerably more difficult than those guys from your high school made it seem. Many people just do not have the space, know how or time to make this a realistic option.
2. Purchase legal-grey-area marijuana from a dispensary
The option most people choose is purchasing marijuana from a legal-grey-area dispensary, such as Cannabis Culture. The non-government approved variety of marijuana supplied by these dispensaries comes with more variety for patients.
We shouldn't be arresting these people.
Thanks to people like Marc and Jodie Emery, a medical marijuana patient can go into a dispensary and purchase a strain of marijuana specifically geared towards their affliction. A chronic pain sufferer can access a strain of marijuana that has been reported as beneficial for pain. A person with generalized anxiety can get a strain that won't cause them paranoia. Someone who has to work all day can get a smooth sativa strain that won't leave them mentally foggy afterwards. Such niceties are not afforded by the government's medical marijuana program.
3. Purchase government grown and approved medical marijuana
The government program is light years behind where the dispensaries are in terms of being able to provide a variety of strains that are geared towards specific afflictions. For many years all that was available for medical marijuana patients was one strand of marijuana, take it or leave it. Though some government-approved providers now have as many as 10 strains available at a time (dispensaries often have dozens of different strains), they still do not have the variety often required for a medical marijuana patient to find the strain which works best for their affliction.
By having access to a greater diversity of strains geared towards their affliction, many Canadians are able to lead better quality lives. The work of Marc and Jodie Emery helps people, improves their lives and increases the amount of joy in the world. We shouldn't be arresting these people.
"But they sell for non-medicinal use!"
The main focus of many anti-dispensary crusaders is that dispensaries are selling to people for recreational use. How terrible, right?
In all likelihood such use is going to be legal soon, and our economy is going to be far better off for it. Last year the state of Colorado brought in $135 million off taxes from legal marijuana sales. The state of Oregon brought in over $60 million.
With recreational marijuana use legalized in Canada, the whole country will feel the positive financial impacts. It will be an industry we need to make sure is run well, and who is in the best position to do that? The government and their one-strain of terrible medical marijuana? Or the guy who can re-stock seven dispensaries within hours of being arrested?
Arrest, wasted resources
The reason so many dispensaries have cropped up since the last federal election is because lawyers know by the time any charges make their way through the court system, the laws they are charged with won't exist.
In the end, all of the charges against Marc and Jodie Emery will be dismissed. So why bother arresting them? Every second of time and every cent spent to arrest the pot power couple will lead to absolutely nothing productive, and nothing which benefits Canadians.
The raids will, however, increase the cost of medication for marijuana patients, decrease access to medication and further signify to medical marijuana patients that police still see them as criminals.
Thank you, Marc and Jodie Emery, for risking your freedom to ensure Canadians have access to medicine that can help improve the quality of their life. Thank you for fighting against outdated laws that harm good people. Today the government of Canada is trying to hurt Marc and Jodie Emery, but future governments will be thanking them.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog indicated that government programs offer only one strain of marijuana. In fact, government programs offer several strains, but not nearly as many as some dispensaries.
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