Pubdate: Sat, 30 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Jacquie Miller
Page: 14


Caught up in pot shop raids

Charges have been dropped against two of the clerks charged in police
raids on Magna Terra Health Services marijuana dispensaries last spring.

It's the first time prosecutors in Ottawa have withdrawn charges
against "budtenders" working at illegal pot shops. That's in contrast
to Toronto, where prosecutors have thrown out many of the drug
trafficking charges against marijuana store clerks.

A total of seven people were charged in the raids on Magna Terra
outlets on Carling Avenue and on Iber Road in Stittsville last March.
Charges against two people were withdrawn, while prosecution of the
other five is going ahead, according to court records. Charges can be
dropped if there is not enough evidence, or if prosecutors decide it
is not in the public interest to proceed.

The bright, clean Magna Terra shops were locally owned. Manager Franco
Vigile called them "clinics." He said he was helping medical marijuana
patients. His brother, Peter J., and sister Nina both worked at the

When they were raided, Franco and Peter J. Vigile were charged with
drug trafficking and possessing the proceeds of crime. Police also
searched the Vigile family home, the corporate address of Magna Terra.
They seized an unlicensed, loaded Desert Eagle handgun, and Nina
Vigile was charged with several gun-related offences, including
possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of a weapon obtained
by crime.

Earlier this month Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi warned that
illegal dispensaries will be closed as the province moves to allow the
sale of recreational pot in stores run by the LCBO. He plans an
"enforcement summit" with municipal and police leaders this fall to
discuss how that can be done.

In Ottawa, 17 dispensaries have been raided since police began
cracking down a year ago, but 11 of them reopened and more have popped
up. There are about 20 dispensaries in town.

Court battles are also looming as lawyers make constitutional
arguments that the illegal shops provide "reasonable access" to
medical marijuana patients as required by previous court rulings.

In Hamilton in August, a judge refused the city's request to shut down
a marijuanadispensary on an interim basis, ruling that the shop could
remain open if it sold only to patients with a prescription for marijuana.

The Toronto lawyer who represented the Hamilton dispensary says it's
"crazy" for budtenders to be prosecuted when the feds have promised to
make pot legal by July 2018.

- -------------------------------------------

By the Numbers

35 - Total number of people charged in 17 raids since November

3 - Number of people who pleaded guilty and received a suspended
sentence, which means they have a criminal record

2- Number of people who pleaded guilty and received a conditional
discharge, which means no conviction is registered

2 - Number of people who pleaded guilty and are awaiting

13 - Number of people who have trial or preliminary hearing dates

13 - Number of people making their way through the court

2 - Number of people who had their charges withdrawn
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt