Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2017
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The StarPhoenix
Author: Andrea Hill
Page: 3


Marijuana trafficking charges against three people involved in a
downtown Saskatoon medical marijuana dispensary that was raided by
city police two years ago have been dropped.

Instead, the dispensary - the Saskatchewan Compassion Club - pleaded
guilty to marijuana trafficking in Saskatoon provincial court on
Thursday and agreed to pay a $6,500 fine plus a $1,950 surcharge.

"Obviously, I'm relieved and pleased to have the process come to an
end and to have justice ultimately served in the proper manner," said
Compassion Club owner Mark Hauk.

Hauk has argued the charges against him are unconstitutional and had
been readying to launch a five-week constitutional challenge in the
new year.

However, in provincial court on Thursday, Compassion Club lawyer Kirk
Tousaw said a plea agreement he reached with the federal Crown to have
the company plead guilty and the charges dropped against Hauk and two
others associated with the club "made sense for everyone" and saves a
great deal of court time.

According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to the court, the
Saskatchewan Compassion Club was in operation on Second Avenue for a
little more than two months. It was founded Aug. 11, 2015 and raided
on Oct. 29, 2015 after a staff member sold marijuana to an undercover
police officer.

Hauk and his two co-accused - store employee Lane Britnell and
volunteer Jaime Hagel - had medical marijuana authorizations and were
allowed to possess no more than 150 grams of marijuana per month. The
Compassion Club had no licence to produce or distribute marijuana and
the business had been warned by the police and Health Canada that it
was operating outside of federal medical marijuana laws.

On Oct. 21, an undercover officer entered the shop and attempted to
purchase medical marijuana. The officer was told he needed a medical
marijuana authorization and was referred to a doctor. The officer
returned to the store on Oct. 27 after receiving the authorization and
purchased marijuana products. Two days later, the officer returned to
the store and bought more marijuana.

On that day, the officer told Hauk "I didn't know you could get a
licence to sell weed out of a place like this," according to the
statement of facts.

Hauk replied, "Well you can't get a licence to do this ... we are
working outside of the regulations now ... it's high risk for us to be
doing this."

Police executed a search warrant at the store later that day and
arrested Hauk, Britnell and Hagel on trafficking-related charges.

In its brief time operating in Saskatoon, the Compassion Club
purchased about 10 kilograms of marijuana at a cost of $42,242. At the
time of the raid, the store contained two kilograms of dried marijuana
and $6,285. Another $1,410 in profits was being kept outside the store.

In the aftermath of the raid, some of the club's clients protested the
charges, which were laid during a complicated time. Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau's Liberal party had just been elected and legislation
to legalize the sale of marijuana was imminent.

Since the Compassion Club shuttered, other medical marijuana shops
have started operating in Saskatoon - which is "fantastic," Hauk said.

"A lot of people ask me assuming that I'd be upset and it's quite the
opposite," he told reporters outside court. "This was all about
creating and improving access and of course, more storefronts opening
up is doing just that, so it's fantastic to see."

City police released a statement Thursday to say the service was
pleased Hauk's case had reached a conclusion and that it hopes the
club's guilty plea dissuades others from operating marijuana
dispensaries without federal licences.

"The SPS (Saskatoon Police Service) maintains that dispensaries which
are not approved by Health Canada are violating the law and are a risk
to public safety," the statement read.

After the raid, the Compassion Club relocated its brick-and-mortar
storefront to Victoria, B.C. and continued to serve its customers
through mail order. That could change now that charges against the
people involved in the club have been dropped.

"I've had some interesting discussions the last couple days. Maybe
stay tuned for a storefront opening in Saskatoon sometime in the near
future here again," Hauk said.
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