Pubdate: Thu, 02 Mar 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jacquie Miller
Page: A3


Ottawa police have charged 19 people in 11 raids conducted on
dispensaries so far

Sherry Morrison blames herself for her daughter's arrest on drug
trafficking charges.

Her daughter, Cassandra Morrison, is among 17 Ottawa "budtenders" who
have been charged in police raids on illegal marijuana dispensaries
over the last four months.

Morrison says her daughter was inspired to become a cannabis activist
after she saw first-hand how medical marijuana helped her mom cope
with chronic pain.

Sherry and Cassandra, along with a handful of others, protested
outside the Ottawa courthouse on Wednesday, calling on the federal
government to move quickly to legalize recreational pot and to stop
arresting people on marijuana-related charges in the meantime.

Sherry's son Taryn Morrison, 25, carried a placard reading "Let us Be
Free." He just got a job at Ottawa's newest pot shop, Cannabis Culture
on Bank Street, which opened last week.

"I felt like, why not join the movement?" said Taryn, a recreational

He switched in the last year from heavy drinking to just smoking pot,
and says he's much calmer. "With alcohol, I was always fighting all
the time, in and out of jail. With weed, it's been a total turnaround.
I'm calmer, more relaxed.

"And the medical side is also beautiful."

The Morrisons aren't concerned about the quality or safety of the
cannabis sold at illegal dispensaries. Most of the dried weed, oils
and edible products are from illicit growers and bakers in B.C. The
federal government warns the products are unregulated and may be
unsafe. Taryn said he's more scared about buying weed from sketchy
street dealers "pushing out the dime sacks" or from people in
unfamiliar houses.

"When I walk into a dispensary, I don't have to deal with a criminal
and bunch of his criminal friends in a house, sitting around smoking.
It's a nice, clean, safe environment."

Two other budtenders arrested in pot shop raids also joined the
protest, while another was inside the courthouse making an appearance.

"I don't know how it's going to go with us," said one protester, a
21-year-old woman who was arrested at a raid of 613 Medicinals on
Montreal Road in December. She was working part time at the shop while
finishing high school.

"I've heard, just from people talking, that they may drop the charges.
I'll probably just get a fine."

She said she hopes to go to college next year for horticulture and
eventually have a career growing cannabis. "I support legalization of
marijuana and freedom of choice."

Ottawa police have refused to release the names of the 19 people
charged in the 11 raids conducted so far, saying it would interfere
with their drug investigations.

But the Citizen has identified and traced the court records of seven
of the budtenders, and no charges have been dropped.

Ottawa police have said they consulted with the Public Prosecution
Service of Canada, the agency responsible for prosecuting drug crimes,
to make sure charges could be viable before any raids were conducted.
They also issued warnings that the dispensaries were illegal and drug
laws could be enforced. There are about 15 dispensaries in Ottawa, and
their operations vary widely.

At one of the newest shops, Trees Dispensary Society on Montreal Road,
the 21-year-old clerk on duty Tuesday said he took the job because
that's all he could find. He arrived from Montreal a couple of weeks
ago looking for work, and is staying on a friend's couch. He dropped
off a pile of resumes, but the pot shop was the only business that
responded, he said.

"You gotta do what you gotta do. I needed the job."

He didn't know who owned the shop or the name of the manager who hired
him. He was not warned he would risk drug trafficking charges if
police raided the shop, although he knew the business was illegal.

How much is he paid? "They didn't tell me."

At another shop tucked into an industrial mall on Canotek Road in
Gloucester, owner-operator Charlie Cloutier says he only sells
"award-winning, quality products" to people who have a doctor's note
proving they need medical marijuana, or who are already signed up to
buy it legally from a Health Canada licensed producer.

"We don't deal in recreational sales," says Cloutier, who works in the
shop himself. "I don't hire teenagers. I'm taking the risk.

'"I am very worried about police raids. I've got a family, I've got
children. But I feel strongly about this."
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