By Jamila Pomeroy
VANCOUVER – The Princess of Pot, Jodie Emery, has seen it all in her 14 years of cannabis activism in Vancouver. While a greener hue may be on the horizon with legislation changes, Emery cautions we have so much work to do, especially for members of the industry who have remained on the forefront during prohibition. “In most recent years it has been less dangerous for people to come out as being a cannabis consumer or activist. More women in professional senses are being able to get into business,” says Emery. The industry and movement that began as a boys club, geared towards male consumers and featuring things such as “babes and bongs” — as referred to by Emery — has taken on new light. The cannabis industry is slowly recognizing that, holistically, cannabis has many benefits to women’s health and furthermore, holds a wider clientele than their previous male-based target. “Cannabis is a female flower and it has all of these healing and nurturing properties. Humans have evolved with cannabis for so long: we have cannabinoid receptors in our bodies and our brains. Women produce cannabinoids with breast milk for their babies, so we are really designed to interact (with these properties),” says Emery.
While this shift is clear, Emery explains that the women who appear to be of greater influence, may in fact not be the women who have previously held ground in the movement. “A lot of the women being represented on panels and events about pot, many of them maybe aren’t even pot consumers, don’t know how to grow it or have no interest in growing it. So there is a lot of women in business who are getting into cannabis, not necessarily a lot of women in cannabis getting into business. A lot of (women in cannabis) have criminal records from being involved, like myself, and a lot of women just don’t have the connections and abilities that men have been able to create over time.” From a business industry perspective, members beginning to invest in the budding climate seem to stray far from the grassroots, for the people perspective, in Emery’s eyes.
The political eye is often peering toward the perspective of slogans such as “it’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana,” targeting the implications cannabis has on Canadian youth and the recreational side of legalization. While recreational legalization will take place this fall, it is still unclear if amnesty will be granted to previous offenders, such as Emery. “In 2018 at the Toronto airport […] we didn’t have any weed or money on us, just doing our cannabis activism thing as usual. And they wouldn’t let us call our lawyers because all the raids and arrests were scheduled for the next day. So they held us for like seven hours, without letting us call our lawyer.” Both Jodie and husband Mark Emery later plead guilty to various cannabis related charges. After the crown deemed their business a “sophisticated” dispensary operation, the two were collectively ordered to pay $195,000 and spend two years on probation. Emery recounts the experience in maximum security at the Vanier Women’s Prison as undeniably traumatic.
“They take you in this transport vehicle, it’s a tiny little box and it’s either freezing cold or burning hot. We were treated like cattle. It’s traumatic, really, for a lot of people. I heard about what happened to dispensary people who got arrested. You get your top taken off, you take your bra off and then you give them your bra because you can’t keep it and then you put your top back on, and you take off your pants and take off your underwear,” she says. “I got through that and was just kind of going through it all, not being afraid and seeing how it was going to unfold.” Emery was then moved into a second room where she was again asked to participate in an additional strip search. “I said ‘top and then bottom?’ and they said ‘No, everything all at once’ and I was like well that’s not necessary.”
With the #metoo movement, and many other sexual responsibility and consent-based movements taking over social media, Emery wishes to shed light on her experience with the Canadian criminal justice system, to perhaps prevent further possible #metoo engagements. “I remember asking my lawyer later, ‘when they told me to take off my clothes, what would happen if I say no?’. He said, ‘well you’re in their custody, you can’t really say no’…and I’m thinking man, you know, we talk about #metoo and consent, and this and that, and you basically get sexually assaulted by your own government. They would hold you down and tear off your clothes.” Emery shares that according to Canadian law, it’s illegal to strip search someone unless you have serious legitimate reason to believe they may have an incriminating object or substance. At that time, Emery was not being investigated for an incriminating object or substance on her person, but for raids and arrests scheduled for the following day. “None of these poor people in the system, getting violated every day, none of them can really fight that alone,” says Emery.
Despite traumatizing experiences during her incarceration, Emery stands strong in representing women and the cannabis industry, through activism. She recently opened Jodies Joint, a coffee shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market. The shop will be selling coffee, tea and hemp-based goods. She hopes for the integration of cannabis when cannabis legalization is in full swing and her personal ties with Canadian law return neutral. And ultimately, she will continue to shed light on and spark change surrounding the cannabis industry.
Follow Jodie Emery on social media: @jodieemery @jodiesjoint