The “Summer of Legalization” tour had the biggest rally so far in St John’s, Newfoundland, on Saturday, July 26. Over 200 people attended to support Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery as he went through the now familiar routine of speaking, toking and then being arrested for possession.
The smoke-in was held at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary HQ on Parade Street in St John’s. This is the local St John’s police, not the RCMP.
“A large media contingent was there,” explained Emery in a posting to the Cannabis Culture web forums. “The crowd swelled up right to 4:20 pm, when I urged everyone to sing Oh, Canada! with me. I lit up at the end and the police did move in pretty quickly, but politely.”
Indeed, Emery has repeatedly noted that at each of his four arrests so far during the tour, police have always been polite and considerate. However, unlike the other arrests, this one involved no actual jail time at all.
“Much to my surprise, there was no prison cell with this arrest,” explained Emery, “nor was I booked. I did hand over a gram of marijuana just to make sure they charged me. I have to go back to the station Sunday and be interviewed by the ‘Drug Squad’ of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. The police said they will likely recommend a charge of possession of marijuana be laid, ‘but that is up to the crown attorney to decide,’ they added.”
Each of the arrests so far has involved less jail time. With his first bust in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Emery was held overnight. At his second arrest in Regina, Saskatchewan, Emery was held for about six hours, being released late in the evening after his arrest. In Moncton, New Brunswick, Emery was held for about four hours. In St John’s, Emery was detained for an even shorter period.
“They released me ten minutes after arrest, much to my genuine surprise, with the provison I show up tomorrow to be further interviewed by the drug squad officer in charge. At that point they would or would not recommend charges be laid, and then the crown attorney would get the final say.
“Everyone was very polite,” added Emery, “and some of the police officers expressed some degree of admiration. I know that police officers are reading these reports, so I don’t want to embarass anyone by quoting them, but lets say the police here were gentlemanly and decent, with some positive remarks.”
As he was released so quickly, Emery went back to the rally, still on police property. “40 or so people were there still, so we spoke together and I to the media for another hour. The police eventually came out, but not to shoo us away. In fact, they said we were welcome to congragate there and continue ‘as long as no one is smoking pot’ which we weren’t since we were all caught up in the discussion and I never thought about it.”
On Sunday Emery went to the police station as they had requested. “No one from the drug section was there,” said Emery, “so they asked me to come back tomorrow.”
“I get the sense that there is confusion about the status of the law here in Newfoundland,” added Emery, “and the news coverage so far has been helpful in disseminating the correct information regarding the ‘marijuana possession is not an offense known unto law’ statement by the Ontario Court of Appeal, further validation by the Rogin decision (Superior Court of Ontario) and provincial court decisions in St. John (New Brunswick), Summerside (PEI) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).”
Yet the confusion has spread further than Newfoundland. City police in Charlottetown, PEI, issued a statement on Thursday, July 24, that said they would still be making marijuana possession busts despite having allowed Emery to have his toke-in at their police headquarters without any police interference.
“Charlottetown city police want to make it clear that uniform members will continue to deal with possession of cannabis occurrences,” said Charlottetown Deputy Police Chief Richard Collins in a news release. “And in no way does the incident of July 23, 2003 [Emery’s rally], indicate that the possession of marijuana is recognized by our department as being legal.”
The news release claims they didn’t arrest Emery while he did bong-hits at their headquarters “due to internal and external circumstances and the time frame over which the incident unfolded.”
However, the police media release also explained that they were indeed changing the way they were dealing with marijuana. “As an interim measure, Charlottetown city police will continue to investigate, document and seize cannabis and maintain continuity of exhibits with a view of laying a charge against any individual after clarification of the law by the court of appeal in appropriate jurisdiction.”
So essentially the police are saying that they realize that PEI courts do not recognize marijuana possession as an offence. Yet they are going to continue to seize marijuana and record the information needed to lay a charge at a later date. According to some legal experts and activists, this could result in the police being sued for theft and false arrest.
The news release said the police department would have no further comment on the matter.
The next stop on the Marc Emery Summer of Legalization Tour is Calgary, Alberta, on August 9, to be followed by Edmonton, Alberta the next day. Police in Edmonton have already announced that they do not intend to arrest Emery if he tokes up at their headquarters.
July 10: Dauphin, Manitoba
July 12: Regina, Saskatchewan
July 19: Halifax, Nova Scotia
July 21: Moncton, New Brunswick
July 23: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
July 26: St. John’s, Newfoundland
August 9: Calgary, Alberta
August 10: Edmonton, Alberta
August 11: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
August 12: Prince George, BC
August 25: Kingston, Ontario
August 26: London, Ontario
August 27: Hamilton, Ontario
August 28: Sudbury, Ontario
August 30: Windsor, Ontario