Pubdate: Sat, 18 Nov 2017
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Jacquie Miller
Page: 4


Judge blasts Ottawa cops for arresting 'budtenders' while pot shops

An Ottawa judge has blasted the police force for failing to shut down
the city's illegal marijuana dispensaries.

Justice Norman Boxall said Friday he cannot understand why it's so
difficult to close shops that operate openly on major streets.

"I just don't understand how the police cannot shut down a dispensary
where the person has a big sign up, as I drive down Rideau St', that
says 'marijuana dispensary.' They brag about it on the Internet that
they are selling it.

"Yet I expect those same police officers to be able to arrest drug
dealers who use encrypted BlackBerrys and coded language. How are they
ever going to arrest most types of criminals if they can't (shut down
the shops)?" he asked.

Boxall had before him a 21-year-old woman who was charged with drug
trafficking when police raided the Rideau dispensary where she worked
as a clerk.

The former "budtender," who suffers from severe anxiety, was shaking
and crying.

"I just want to apologize and just say I've learned my lesson," said
Selena Holder, who pleaded guilty. "I just want to continue with my
life and save animals."

Boxall spoke to Holder gently, assuring her the court did not want to
dash her dreams of taking a vet technician course.

"You can't change what you did, but you do have control over your

Her sentencing was put over until January.

Holder, in a previous interview with this newspaper, said she took the
$12-an-hour job because she was struggling to pay her rent and
believed the pot shop was operating in a legal "grey area."

A spokesperson for Ottawa police said the force would not comment on
Justice Boxall's remarks.

Police have conducted multiple raids on dispensaries, but many just

In previous interviews, police officials have said they have limited
resources, and drug investigations take time - points that were made
in court Friday by the Crown prosecutor.

Boxall was skeptical. "What does that show about the respect for the
law when the police say, 'I don't have the resources to shut down
organized criminals who can afford companies' and so on ...

"I'd like to hear a police officer come in front (of me) and explain
to me why the Ottawa police doesn't have the resources, out of their
big squad, to arrest people (when) they say it's a serious problem,
people selling kilos of marijuana for profit?"

Boxall said if someone set up a shop selling cocaine, or illegal
cigarettes or alcohol, it would be shut down immediately.

Boxall also questioned why police don't go after landlords.

"Why don't they just look at the (name) on title and say, 'Mr. Jones,
you own this building. We are going to charge you with possession of
the proceeds of crime and we're going to seize your building. If you
want to rent to people who are drug dealers, you are party to the offence.'

"Why don't we go after the big guys?"

While many of the arrests in Ottawa have been of budtenders in their
20s, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada says some owners and
managers have also been charged.

Police have said it's often difficult to figure out who runs the
shops, which can be "flyby-night."

Ottawa police have sent letters to landlords warning them against
allowing illegal activity on their premises, with limited success.

There are now about 20 dispensaries in the city.

At one point in the court proceeding, Boxall asked the Crown
prosecutor if it was illegal for customers to buy pot from the shops.
Yes, said the prosecutor. Why not station a police officer at the door
of each shop to inform customers that purchasing weed there is
illegal? Boxall suggested.
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