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TORONTO – Canada's so-called "Prince of Pot" has been arrested in Toronto and police are raiding several of his marijuana dispensaries, his lawyer said Thursday.
Lawyer Jack Lloyd said Marc Emery and his wife, Jodie Emery, were taken into custody at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Wednesday evening.
Neither Lloyd nor Toronto police would confirm what charges they may face. Lloyd says the Emerys were due in court Thursday.
Emery had previously been sentenced to five years in prison on drug distribution charges by a U.S. federal judge in Seattle, Wash. in Sept. 2010 after pleading guilty to selling marijuana seeds to U.S. customers.
The federal government is moving to legalize marijuana, but people are already setting up retail outlets selling pot for recreational use. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected.
The Emerys own the Cannabis Culture brand, which has a chain of 19 marijuana dispensaries operating openly in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said seven Cannabis Culture locations, five in Toronto, one in Hamilton and another in Vancouver, were searched along with two homes in Toronto, one in Stoney Creek, Ont., and one in Vancouver.
Pugash said that five people were arrested and 11 search warrants were executed in Ontario and Vancouver on Thursday as part of Project Gator. He said details of the charges were being finalized.
No employees of the dispensaries were arrested, Pugash said.
"Our history of enforcing the law against illegal cannabis dispensaries is well established," he said. "This is the latest effort in our law enforcement, and I'm certain there will be further action."
Nadia Conte, 36, was at one of the Toronto dispensaries raided Thursday and said she doesn't understand why police are wasting resources on these raids.
"In my opinion, these places help keep weed regulated," she said. "People used to go to dealers but now dealers go to these dispensaries to buy their weed. And, all you have to do is show ID for some places, and boom, you get weed. I think it's a safer option for most people."
Emery was previously arrested at one of his new Montreal dispensaries in December and charged with drug trafficking.
Police forces across the country have been raiding pot shops in recent months and charging owners with trafficking-related offences.
A Vancouver-based lawyer for the Emerys said in a statement that "several cannabis activists" have been arrested in addition to his clients.
"Co-ordinated country-wide raids attempting, futilely, to enforce an outdated and harmful law degrades public confidence in the administration of justice, wastes valuable taxpayer funds, wastes scarce police, prosecutorial and judicial resources and benefits precisely no one," Kirk Tousaw said.