Cannabis Culture publisher and cannabis seed pioneer Marc Emery, his partner Coral Clay, and Coral’s son Dylan were rousted from their suburban home by police on Vancouver Island on Canada’s West Coast early Tuesday morning, March 5th.
Emery was first awakened by a series of phone calls that took place around 3:30 am. He answered the third call.
A voice on the line asked if he was Marc Emery, and when he answered in the affirmative, he was told that a team of Victoria police officers had surrounded his house.
“We have a warrant to enter your premises,” an officer told Emery. “Please go out your front door, do not go back into the house; go out onto the sidewalk.”
The officers asked Emery if there was a child in the house while Emery was waking Coral and her son.
Soon, the three sleepy Canadians were standing outside on the sidewalk dressed in their underwear, where they were accosted by a phalanx of police officers and a large police vehicle. Emery felt sorry for everyone shivering in the winter darkness, so he invited officers into the house.
They all trooped inside, where a young-looking constable named Colin Brown proclaimed, “On Wednesday I was walking by and smelled pot. So we got a warrant to enter your property and look at the electrical meter, which seemed a bit higher than normal. I smelled what now appears to be your dryer exhaust vent, but I thought I detected the smell of pot coming from it when we executed the earlier warrant on Saturday.”
Emery says that police officers inspecting his home began to show signs of dejection because instead of the indoor marijuana cultivation operation that they had hoped to find, they had only succeeded in entering the home of a middle class couple whose lifestyle and legal status were no different from many of their neighbors, one of whom was a Victoria police officer who Emery says had left an ominous note in Emery’s mailbox last week warning Emery that the smell of marijuana was emanating from Emery’s home.
Constable Brown asked Emery if he had any pot; Emery showed Brown a paltry amount of leaf and stems, along with a tiny amount of resin glands.
“Looks like some good BC bud,” Brown quipped, while trying to explain why he believed that the dryer vent air had smelled like marijuana.
“We always use ‘Vanilla Bounce’ fabric softener sheets in the dryer,” Emery told the constable during a politely blunt challenge of the constable’s probable cause for the search warrant. “And, we make sure that our electrical usage is very ecologically responsible and far below normal.”
According to Emery, the other officers left the house sheepishly while Brown remained behind trying to fend off Emery’s questions about what constitutes “normal” electricity usage and why eight police officers had showed up to bust him in the middle of the night.
“As you are aware, Mr. Emery, you have quite a history,” Brown reportedly said. “We have no argument with you smoking marijuana. We’re not here about that.”
“I have a history of publicly running a political party and providing people with high quality herbal genetics,” Emery responded, “but I don’t have a history of running marijuana grow operations.”
Clearly embarrassed and probably wanting nothing more than to go back home and go to sleep, Brown murmured a few platitudes until Emery said, “Officer, you can go now.”
After Brown left, Emery and his family reflected on the incident, and contacted attorneys, friends, allies and members of the media.
Emery said that his initially reaction was a mixture of indignation and amusement, but that the incident’s severity was enhanced by concern for his family, and by the government threat implicit in a telephone call that basically told him to come out of his house with his hands up.
The seedmeister also noted that Brown’s unfounded assertion of the “smell of marijuana” and “unusually high electrical usage” indicative of a marijuana grow operation were wrongly taken at face value by the judge who signed the search warrants.
“What this really means is that any citizen of Canada can, at any time, be falsely accused of a marijuana crime by police who actually have absolutely no evidence that a crime is really being committed,” Emery commented. “A search warrant is only supposed to be issued by a judge on the basis of valid probable cause. The search warrant process is supposed to protect us in the sanctity of our homes. Judges are supposed to make sure that we are safe in our homes. Judges should never rely solely on the word of police officers when they are issuing search warrants. As we have seen in this case, the officers might be deliberately or inadvertently inaccurate.”
As word of the early morning raid spread, Emery and Cannabis Culture began receiving condolences and messages of support from friends across the world. International media outlets also covered the story. Victoria police officials refused to talk to reporters, claiming that a report on the incident had not yet been completed.
“My heart stopped when I first heard about what happened to Marc, but thank god they didn’t arrest him or even steal his stash, and for that we are very grateful,” said Cannabis Culture international correspondent Pete Brady, who currently resides in the United States. “If Marc lived in the US, the police would have kicked his door down in the middle of the night, put guns to the head of him and his family, ransacked his home, confiscated everything he owned, corraled his child into state custody, charged him with false charges, taken him and Coral to jail under an enormously high bail amount, forced him to defend himself in court, and only many weeks later would they have dropped the charges against him. I don’t think Canadian police should enforce any marijuana laws, and they were clearly wasting their time doing this to Marc, but I want to thank those constables for not hurting him and his family, and for leaving when they found out they had made a mistake. I wish that the police in the US were as polite and professional.”