On March 9th, 2017, along with many others in the Toronto cannabis community, I was in Toronto’s bail court. We were waiting for Jodie and Marc Emery to be brought before the judge. Instead, I witnessed the fallout of Project Gator and the arrest of the Cannabis Culture Five: #CC5.


Just before 11:00 am, I looked up from my seat in the observers’ benches. I saw a Cannabis Culture hemployee nearby on his cell phone, and his face told me something was very wrong.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Alan, the staff member on the phone, shook his head. “You haven’t heard, we’re being raided!”

Amy and I quickly found Chris and Erin Goodwin, who were watching video of police inside a local Cannabis Culture dispensary. News quickly came in that police were at more locations and activists quickly got on social media and their phones to try to ascertain who were being hit.

It was first assumed that all twenty Cannabis Culture franchises across Canada were being raided. But it was confirmed later that seven locations were the focus of investigation as a part of Toronto Police Services “Project Gator.” An eighth raid of an Ottawa Cannabis Culture location was an unrelated coincidence. It was mayhem as many tried to make sure their friends and co-workers were safe and to share the information further.

Reporters surrounded our group, asking questions and requesting access to security camera footage. I told a reporter to back off and give us a minute, bail court was about to continue while our friends and families were being arrested.

Court was called back into session and we all filed in, nervous and agitated over the recent news. The wheels of justice are infamously slow; after just a few short minutes court was recessed again. We filed back out into the hallway.

#CC5 police

The Crown and Police were the few with the luxury of being calm.

I found Chris Goodwin on the phone with Brandon Guerra, the husband of activist and Cannabis Culture Hamilton store owner Britney Guerra. Brandon told Chris that Toronto Police had just come to their home in Hamilton and had arrested her. They were transporting Britney to 51 Division where she would appear in the same bail court the following morning.

It was then that we heard the word conspiracy for the first time. I looked at Chris and told him that it would be best if he and his wife Erin left as quickly as possible, as no doubt there would be police looking for them as well.

Uniformed officers were on the perimeter of the crowd. When Chris headed towards the exit he was stopped by the uniformed officers, another two manoeuvred through the crowd to also place his wife Erin Goodwin under arrest for a number of marijuana related charges.  

Watching Erin be restrained, I asked if there was anyone we could call or anything we could do. She remained silent as police placed the cuffs on her. Erin has been arrested numerous times in the fight for dispensaries in Toronto. A photograph of her flashing a peace sign while her hands were cuffed behind her back will remain a historically poignant image of this time in our political history. But this arrest was different and you could see it on her face as she paused before steeling herself for the press awaiting her “perp walk” to the police vehicle outside.

Amy and I went back in to find that the court had broken for lunch and would be reconvening in the afternoon to deal with Marc and Jodie Emery. We took the opportunity to head to the nearest Cannabis Culture location and check on staff and the progress of the raid. And to find out if anyone had any further information about the locations raided, and whom we could expect in bail court the next morning.

We found a manager, Jamie, outside the Church Street location. He informed us that police were still inside, and another manager named Mark had been handcuffed and was in police custody there. We also learned that the Cannabis Culture store in Vancouver had been surrounded by police all morning. Then we were waiting for word from that location as they were scheduled to open within the hour.

The lunch break was over quickly and we returned to the courthouse. The courtroom which had that morning been filled with many other defendants’ friends and family, as well as interested media and support for Marc and Jodie, was now a room full of media. Amy and I struggled to find a seat in the back.

#CC5 supporters

Jodie Emery and Britney Guerra surrounded by police and supporters.

Marc and Jodie were both brought into the prisoner’s dock. While we struggled to hear the proceedings, and knowing I might get kicked out of the room, I stood and waved to Jodie so that they knew they had friends in the room. I was surprised when Jodie, not knowing the court’s strict rules on communication, flashed me a peace sign in response. It was soon apparent that more charges would be imminent and the case was remanded until the next day.

We hadn’t even had the chance to tell Jack Lloyd about the arrests of Chris and Erin Goodwin, though I had contacted other lawyers to let them know….

Friday morning we arrived to Room 103 to a much larger crowd, and were immediately moved upstairs to a larger courtroom. Citing transport issues — Jodie had apparently not yet arrived from holding — we were recessed again. There was a lot of court support on the second day. And there was a group of sureties on site, ready to post bail for those whom the community were now calling the #CC5. The judge and Crown advised those posting bonds to be aware of the risk of re-offending, and sent them to read and sign the appropriate forms.

Around noon they first brought in Chris Goodwin followed by Marc Emery. Then, like something from a movie, the three women who had been arrested were escorted into the courtroom together. From my vantage point I could not tell if they were handcuffed together, but it looked like three women holding hands in friendship and solidarity. They looked more like Charlie’s Angels than the hardened criminals TPS was trying to portray them to be.

They sat the three down on a bench together, separated by glass from the observers in the courtroom. Then a judge we hadn’t seen before entered the courtroom and we were seated. The judge told us the previous judge had become ill and been taken to the hospital. And since he had not recused himself from the case a new judge could not hear evidence until he did. My heart sank, did this mean the #CC5 would be in jail the whole weekend?

The three women of the #CC5 being advised.

The three women of the #CC5 being advised.

It was quickly clarified that the previous judge had not yet heard evidence, so the new challenge would be to find an available judge. The judge sitting before us had to return to his own courtroom within the hour.

I found Jack in the hallway and he assured me that a judge had been found and they would all be processed and released later that day. I left the rest of the supporters, friends, and family to await their release. Which didn’t take place for another almost seven hours.

As there is now a current investigation there has been a publication ban on the case. But what I can tell you is the #CC5 were released on $30,000 bail each and will return to court on April 21, 2017. They are banned from travel outside of Ontario, except to British Columbia with special permission for two of the five. And most heartbreaking of all, they must dissolve the Cannabis Culture brand they have worked so hard to build.

I spoke with Jodie a few days after her release and she was gearing up for more media interviews this week. As well she was meetings with lawyers on how they will dissolve the hempire built by the Prince of Pot.


Currently the #CC5 have been charged with:

 

Marc Emery

Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence

Three counts of Trafficking Schedule II

Five counts Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Schedule II

Five Counts Possession of Proceeds of Crime

Failure to Comply – Recognizance (Breach of bail conditions regarding marijuana.)

 

Jodie Emery

Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence

Trafficking Schedule II

Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Schedule II

Two counts of Possession of Proceeds of Crime.

 

Chris Goodwin

Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence

Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Schedule II

Possession of Proceeds of Crime.

 

Erin Goodwin

Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence

Failure to Comply – Recognizance.

 

Britney Guerra

Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence

Three counts of Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Schedule II

Three counts of Possession of Proceeds of Crime

 

(Feature Image and photographs courtesy of a supporter who wishes to remain unnamed.)