Pubdate: Mon, 05 Mar 2018
Source: Kingston Whig-Standard (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Sun Media
Author: Sue Yanagisawa
Page: A1


A Kingston judge has disposed of the last of the charges against a
group of six young "budtenders" arrested in a raid on an illegal
Princess Street marijuana dispensary in March 2017.

Justice Larry O'Brien declined, however, to impose a sentence that
would have encumbered the 23-year-old Ottawa woman with a criminal
record when the principals profiting from the business went
unidentified and were never charged.

Instead, he gave the woman a discharge, conditional upon her
successful completion of one year of probation, after she pleaded
guilty to a single charge of possessing marijuana for the purpose of
trafficking. The terms of her probation oblige her to complete
assessments and counselling as directed by her probation officer and
require that she not socialize with anyone she knows to have a
criminal or drug record.

Kingston Police raided the storefront dispensary, which was operating
under the name CannaGreen, at around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9,
three days after it opened for business here, next door to the Royal

Officers seized the evening 's receipts totalling $3,470.20, digital
scales, packaging materials, inventory lists, membership applications,
membership cards and resumes.

They additionally seized the dispensary's stock, consisting of 4.1
grams of "shatter" a THC concentrate extracted using a butane process;
64.6 grams of kief, a sticky powder that forms after the bud is dried
and made up of crystals of resin exuded by the marijuana flower; 1.2
grams of "moon rock," which is marijuana bud dipped or sprayed with
hash oil and rolled in potent kief; 5.5 grams of hybrid "Himalayan
Kush" marijuana; 2.2 grams of hybrid "Himalayan Gold" marijuana; 19.8
grams of black hashish; 429.1 grams of dried loose marijuana; and a
variety of THC edibles, such as cough syrup, lollipops, cookies, rice
crispy squares, brownies, soda and candies, including THC infused
gummy worms.

They also arrested six employees who were working at the time, three
men and three women ranging in age between 22 and 30.

Four of the six were released immediately after booking.

One 25-year-old man was held overnight and released the following day
on a bail recognizance with a local woman acting as his bail surety,
but the young woman who appeared in front of Justice O'Brien - the
youngest of the group - was detained in custody over the weekend until
her mother arrived from Ottawa the following Monday and pledged a
$1,000 bond to secure her bail. All six were originally charged with
possessing less than three kilograms of marijuana for the purpose of
trafficking, which carries a maximum penalty of five years less one
day. But federal Crown prosecutor Courtney Cottle told Justice O'Brien
the 23-year-old's five co-accused were all offered diversion, an
alternative to criminal prosecution that allows someone accused of a
crime to discharge their debt to the community through other means,
most commonly community service or a charitable donation. Diversion is
usually employed in cases involving first-time offenders or offences
deemed relatively minor eit! her by their nature or their

It wasn't offered to the youngest, Cottle told the judge, because
notwithstanding her current lack of criminal record, three months
before her arrest in Kingston she'd been arrested and charged under
virtually identical circumstances while working in an illegal
marijuana dispensary in Ottawa. That charge is still outstanding and
scheduled for trial in Ottawa.

On her Kingston charge, Cottle recommended the judge impose a
three-month conditional sentence the young woman would be able to
serve in her own residence, but she told him, in this instance, "I
would suggest that a criminal record is absolutely required."

Cottle argued that "this was blatant drug dealing " and, given the
woman's earlier arrest, "a slap in the face of the laws that exist."

She also suggested to Justice O'Brien that the courts need to send a
message that just as it isn't permissible for any random individual to
set up in a storefront and sell liquor, "you can't do it with marijuana."

Justice O'Brien asked her pointedly if the owner or owners of the
CannaGreen business had been charged, and Cottle had to tell him "no"
because Kingston Police weren't able to establish the identities of
the principals involved in the business

"What message is that?" Justice O'Brien demanded to

In November, Ottawa Justice Norman Boxall, dealing with a similar case
involving a young female clerk, questioned why police, if they
couldn't identify the people profiting directly from illegal
dispensaries, weren't charging the property owners who rent to them or
stationing officers at the doors to tell would-be customers they were
about to make an illegal purchase.

The 23-year-old told Justice O'Brien she'd been employed to work in
the Kingston dispensary for minimum wage.

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Sarah Ahsan, who represented the young
woman, urged Justice O'Brien to grant her client a conditional
discharge, arguing that she was still a first-time offender "for the
purposes of today."

Ahsan also noted that her client has a number of mental health issues,
including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and
post-traumatic stress disorder, but is nonetheless trying to achieve
some goals. She's currently enrolled in culinary school, Ahsan told
the judge, suggesting that a criminal record, in addition to being
unnecessary, "will close a number of doors [for her client] moving

The defence lawyer also characterized her client as "an anxious
person" and suggested the arrest, custody prior to bail and the court
process itself, for her, has already been "a gruelling process." She
pointed out to the judge, as well, that she was "not asking for an
absolute discharge where there would be no assumption of

In delivering his decision, Justice O'Brien found that the young woman
before him was "vulnerable and manipulated." A psychological
assessment submitted to the court by her lawyer characterized her as
"a people pleaser" he observed, who has difficulty saying no.

He also cited Justice Boxall's decision to grant a discharge in the
Ottawa case and quoted with approval from his fellow jurist's reasons,
when he said: "If the authorities chose to prosecute only certain
individuals to combat dispensaries, that is within their discretion.
But it is inappropriate for the court to fight any battle against
dispensaries on the backs of individuals with low moral culpability,
significant remorse and strong rehabilitative potential."
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