Pubdate: Sat, 22 Jul 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: A1


In potentially precedent-setting case, operators of marijuana
dispensary get an absolute discharge

KITCHENER - A provincial court judge granted an absolute discharge to
a young Kitchener couple who were running an illegal marijuana
dispensary in Waterloo.

Justice Colin Westman said Nour and Shady Louka committed "an offence
of compassion" when they operated a medical marijuana dispensary in
uptown Waterloo and sold pot to adults with medical marijuana licences.

Westman described the couple as "activists in favour of their fellow
human beings" and running a marijuana dispensary was "essentially
civil disobedience."

Westman agreed the couple broke the law and a finding of guilt was
issued, but the pair will not have a criminal record.

"You are not going to be compromised in my court, not for
circumstances like this," Westman said in his judgment Friday.

Nour Louka, 30, owned and operated the Waterloo Dispensary, which sold
marijuana out of a second-floor business on King Street. Her husband,
Shady Louka, 32, was a part-time, temporary employee.

The Loukas opened their dispensary in April 2015 and four months later
they were busted by Waterloo Regional Police. Both pleaded guilty to
possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Shady Louka also pleaded guilty to careless storage of a 9 mm Glock
handgun in their home. That charge will be dealt with at a later date.

Shady Louka was arrested with more than $10,000 cash in the trunk of
his car. Another $4,400 in Canadian money and $1,829 in U.S. cash was
found at their house, plus a money counter.

The Crown was seeking convictions and $10,000 fines.

Defence lawyer Sean Safa, representing Shady Louka, said the judge was
fair to the accused and ruled that running the dispensary was an act
of compassion.

"They were helping other people," he said after the judgment. "The
community wasn't harmed here."

Safa said it was the first time an absolute discharge had been issued
in a case like this in the region and could be precedent-setting for
other jurisdictions.

Court heard the couple started the business after a serious car crash
in 2015. Both suffered from chronic pain because of their injuries.
Shady has been unable to work.

Westman described the couple as intelligent, happily married and not
needing rehabilitation because of the offence.

Westman said the pair started the business for others who were
suffering in pain like them but couldn't access marijuana.

"They are proud Canadians who did not want to be associated with
criminality," Westman said.

Shady Louka was born in Egypt and came to Canada with his

Canadian-born Nour's family hails from Jordan.

Both attended high school in Waterloo Region and attended Conestoga
College before working full-time.

Westman said drug traffickers play havoc on people's lives and hurt
others. But in this case, "I didn't hear any harm being

"The rule of law protects us from chaos and anarchy. I have yet to
hear about any anarchy created by medicinal dispensaries," he said.

Westman said their crime was not evil and did not endanger the life of

"This is an offence against the rule of law," he said.

In his judgment, Westman referred to a Record article in which medical
marijuana users were interviewed, saying dispensaries were necessary
for them to access the marijuana and cope with their pain.

The story suggested if dispensaries weren't open, those needing the
marijuana would be forced to rely on illicit sources.

"The prosecution would create a scenario where law-abiding citizens
would go to illicit sources," he said. "Is that really what we want
them to do?"

Westman praised Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin for having
the "courage" and "judicious temperament" to recognize the importance
of being just.

Westman was referring to Larkin's public statements after the Louka
arrest saying that officers visited every marijuana dispensary in the
region to warn each operation to cease and desist or they could face
being raided. Larkin took the unusual step to give operators the
opportunity to quit or face charges, Westman said.

"This is about fairness and justice," he said.

Westman said Larkin had "great integrity and was well-regarded and

"He had the courage to recommend discretion," Westman said. "He saw
the conundrum we are in."

The federal government is set to legalize recreational marijuana next
July, but for now storefront marijuana dispensaries are illegal.
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