Marc and Jodie Emery blame deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston for heavy police response to Cannabis Day

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      Cannabis-legalization activists blocked a major downtown Vancouver street in response to a police crackdown this morning.

      Vancouver police reportedly swooped down and pepper-sprayed people while making arrests outside the Vancouver Art Gallery during the 20th annual Cannabis Day party.

      Standing off to the side of the intersection was Marc Emery, who told the Georgia Straight that the police conduct reminded him of the "bad old days of 1993".

      "It's so unnecessary, right?" Emery said. "Now, they cause all this terrible feeling in the same community that they're going to have to police for the future. It's just a really strangely, militant aggressive move by the VPD against the least aggressive people in the city."

      When asked who was to blame, Emery cited the management at Vancouver City Hall, most notably the city manager, Penny Ballem, and the deputy city manager, Sadhu Johnston.

      "He's a particularly unsavoury gentleman, as far as I can tell," Emery alleged. "He's totally unsympathetic to the pot movement."

      Protesters blocked Howe Street south of West Georgia Street.
      Charlie Smith

      Speaking to the Straight about 15 minutes earlier, his wife Jodie also pinned the blame on Johnston, who wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the organizer, Cannabis Culture magazine, on June 9.

      She said that the event had been held peacefully on Canada Day for the past 19 years. She claimed that organizers received an "extraordinarily frosty reception" when they met the deputy city manager to discuss this.

      "For some reason, Sadhu Johnston decided to disrupt things and create problems," Jodie Emery said.

      Many uniformed police were in the streets around the Vancouver Art Gallery.
      Charlie Smith

      The front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery is surrounded by fences because of a major renovation project. As a result, tables and booths for Cannabis Day were on the eastern and southern sides of the building.

      Neither of the Emerys witnessed the arrests.

      John Berfelo, CEO of Green Planet Store Ltd., said that when he pulled up on Howe Street, an officer demanded to see his driver's licence and handed him a $121 ticket.

      He said that there were about 30 officers on the scene and they were paying particular attention to three cannabis activists: David Malmo-Levine, Neil Magnuson, and Bert Easterbrook.

      "At one point, they gathered and they pounced on them," Berfelo said. "They caused a peaceful protest to turn into a fight."

      John Berfelo says police arrived early to the Cannabis Day party.

      Berfelo said that when police were asked why the men were arrested, officers replied, "No open sales of marijuana."

      Cannabis Day continued even after the police made some arrests.
      Charlie Smith

      Comments

      36 Comments

      sable

      Jul 1, 2015 at 1:45pm

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can't come soon enough to end this ridiculous response to marijuana. Harper likely applauds this police reaction and Mulcair seems no better on this issue, having spoken against legalization, saying marijuana can cause mental illness and should not be legalized.

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      art snow

      Jul 1, 2015 at 2:30pm

      last I heard it is illegal to sell pot on the street corners They were warned. Canada day fills the streets with young children. Let's keep the drug sales indoors. As we know 4/20 and cannabis day is all about exposure and self promotion, and nothing about medical needs.

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      @art snow

      Jul 1, 2015 at 2:38pm

      "As we know 4/20 and cannabis day is all about exposure and self promotion, and nothing about medical needs"

      It's about none of those things, it's about freedom.

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      ?

      Jul 1, 2015 at 2:42pm

      Who cares what these two stoners have to say. The organizers were warned not have an event without a permit, but their arrogance caused this action - plain and simple. Is it really too much to ask people to keep the pot sales out of the public eye. There's that arrogance again! I love to smoke pot, but I try to not let it run my life. Pot isn't everything.

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      Shawn

      Jul 1, 2015 at 2:59pm

      Meanwhile right now at Kits beach tonnes of drunk teenagers and no VPD in sight

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      @

      Jul 1, 2015 at 3:44pm

      Its not about pot its about rights , that makes sense .
      Getting stone or drunk or goofed up as a life style is a waste of time , for sure .
      If you need it for pain than you need it .
      Quite the pipe dreaming , it is quasi legal and will be legal soon .
      There are more important things than being stoned,
      like bill c 51 - it that should be stopped in its tracks .

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      Barry William Teske

      Jul 1, 2015 at 3:47pm

      So there you have it folks...
      Though I do not agree with the 'we don't need acknowledged permission - yes you do' antics* of the few, take note: violence* is always to be the solution.
      That is the response.
      That is the outcome.
      Probably the best devised way ever to shut down progress on planet Earth. Fully developed by our common humanity.
      If you have interests other than that of 'leadership' count on a visit from law enforcement*. Paid for with your money*.

      * All the same thing.

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      On the other hand...

      Jul 1, 2015 at 3:49pm

      Critical Mass cyclists can congregate there, disrupt traffic at will .. even close down the lions gate bridge on a Friday yet not a ticket or a warning is served by the blue army. Police are instead instructed that it's no problem guys!! Just a peaceful protest and our democratic right!

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      James Blatchford

      Jul 1, 2015 at 3:59pm

      Is there a strain of marijuana that helps with stupid?

      Oh, still working on that, eh?

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      Gregg

      Jul 1, 2015 at 4:36pm

      Oh the poor poor drug dealers. Their tax-free obscene-profit sales were interrupted for a morning and it's all Harper's fault.

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