It has been over a year and a half since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to legalizing marijuana in Canada, yet raids and arrests are continuing on illegal dispensaries across the country.
Prominent Canadian marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery, who own 19 Cannabis Culture dispensaries throughout Canada, were arrested Wednesday night and charged Thursday with several drug-related offences at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Here are key dates over the past two years as the federal government pursues marijuana legalization and initiatives by Toronto police to crack down on businesses dispensing the drug.
While campaigning during the 2015 federal election before the Liberal party came to power, Justin Trudeau said his party was committed to legalizing and regulating marijuana. He said controlling it would “protect our kids and remove criminal elements from it.” He added at the time the Liberal party would “get started on that right away.”
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the Liberal government will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in spring 2017.
Meanwhile in Toronto, thousands attended the city’s annual 4-20 pot rally at Yonge-Dundas Square. As marijuana dispensaries started popping up in anticipation of the legislation, a public opinion poll at the time showed 68 per cent of Canadians felt pot should be legal.
READ MORE: Thousands attend Toronto 4-20 pot rally at Yonge-Dundas Square
A spike in marijuana dispensaries in parts of Canada promoted calls for the government to regulate the businesses.
READ MORE: Calls for regulation as rise of pot dispensaries surprises municipalities
Toronto police conducted “Project Claudia,” a large coordinated series of raids on 43 marijuana dispensaries. Officers said 90 people were arrested and 257 charges were laid.
Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the federal government wouldn’t decriminalize marijuana before legalizing it. She also said the Liberals wouldn’t support an NDP motion urging the government to immediately decriminalize simple pot possession.
READ MORE: Feds not decriminalizing pot ahead of legalization: Wilson-Raybould
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced officers raided several marijuana dispensaries in the city, almost a month after Project Claudia. He said the businesses were operating illegally. A coalition of marijuana dispensaries called the May raids “a major mistake” and said the stores offered high-quality medical cannabis products to those who need it.
READ MORE: Police raid more Toronto marijuana dispensaries a month after major crackdown
Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the creation of a task force as “the first step in a process” to legalize marijuana in Canada.
Toronto police announced at least six people were charged after officers raided four more medical marijuana dispensaries in the city’s east end.
READ MORE: Toronto police target 4 more marijuana dispensaries in latest round of raids
The federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation released recommendations on how marijuana should be produced, sold and regulated. It recommended selling marijuana in separate stores to those who are 18 and older.
Marc Emery is arrested in Montreal as police raid multiple area Cannabis Culture locations, a day after grand opening celebrations.
READ MORE: ‘Prince of Pot’ arrested as Montreal police raid Cannabis Culture store
Police in Toronto said violent armed robberies of marijuana dispensaries were a growing “public safety issue.” Officers said the issue was made worse because owners haven’t been reporting incidents.
Marc and Jodie Emery were arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport amid raids on seven dispensaries and four homes in Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton.
READ MORE: Marc and Jodie Emery charged in Toronto amid marijuana dispensary raids across Canada
With files from Leslie Whyte