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ON:National Cannabis Region: Illegal pot stores pop up acros

by papapuff » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:32 pm

MetroNews Canada

Ottawa councillor says marijuana won't be sold in current dispensaries

Coun. Mathieu Fleury says delay in legal framework frustrating.

By: Ryan Tumilty Metro Published on Tue Mar 28 2017

Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury said he’s frustrated by news that it could be another 15 months before there is a legal framework for marijuana sales.

Reports surfaced this week that the federal government intends to have marijuana legislation in place by July 1, 2018.

Fleury has said previously that the dispensaries operating in Ottawa now won’t be the way marijuana is sold legally, and he is frustrated about the resources they’re consuming now.

He said this news is just a continuation of that problem.

“It feels like we have been in that grey area for over a year now, so its frustrating but there are no new pressure points,” he said.

He said if the government waits until 2018 it won’t change anything for the dispensaries, which are — and, he believes, will remain — illegal

“It’s a reminder that buying marijuana within those dispensaries is the same as buying marijuana off the street,” he said.

Fleury said when the time comes he hopes the city will regulate locations for marijuana dispensaries and have them in regulated stores.

“We prefer having a model like the LCBO, understanding it won’t be in the LCBO,” he said.

An independent panel reviewing marijuana legislation concluded that it should not be sold in places where alcohol is sold.

“The product will be sold as a controlled substance just like it is for alcohol,” said Fleury.

He said police have begun to warn landlord of dispensaries that they can’t just look the other way and he hopes the dispensaries will find it more difficult to operate.
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by papapuff » Tue Apr 11, 2017 5:43 pm

Ottawa pot shot budtenders plead guilty to drug trafficking, get suspended sentences

Published on: April 11, 2017

The first two of 29 Ottawa pot shops clerks charged in police raids have gone through the courts and received suspended sentences.

Budtenders Sarah Scott and Joshua Zvonar pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of possession for the purpose of trafficking. They were arrested last November in the first Ottawa police sweep against illegal marijuana dispensaries, when six shops were raided in a single day.

Scott and Zvonar were initially charged with nine counts each of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possessing the property proceeds of crime.

Their defence asked for a conditional discharge, which would mean they would not have a criminal record.

However, the Crown argued a conviction was needed to deter others from engaging in “blatant criminal activity,” to make the public aware of the consequences of working at an illegal dispensary, and to make it more difficult for the illegal businesses to re-open, said Nathalie Houle, spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

The court imposed a criminal conviction with a suspended sentence and 12 months’ probation for both budtenders, with the condition they not possess any controlled drugs without a prescription.

The other budtenders charged in police raids are making their way through the court system. All face similar charges, including multiple counts of drug trafficking.

Dispensary workers across Canada have been charged as police crack down on the illegal shops popping up in advance of the federal government’s promise to legalize recreational pot. In Toronto, the Crown has thrown out charges against many of the budtenders while proceeding with charges against owners and managers of the shops.

Police and Health Canada warn that the dispensaries carry products from the black market that are unregulated and possibly unsafe. Dispensary workers say they are providing a service for both medical and recreational users, and that prosecuting them is a waste of money.

Scott and Zvonar worked at the Green Tree dispensary on Bank Street, which closed after the November raid.

It was one of seven related shops set up by a B.C. outfit last summer operating under the names Green Tree, WeeMedical and Cannagreen. All were raided, but four re-opened.

The number of dispensaries in Ottawa fluctuates, with some closing after raids, robberies or landlord disputes, and new ones opening. There are about 12 dispensaries in town now.

A new Cannagreen dispensary popped up about a week ago in the west end in a strip mall on McEwen Avenue. It’s a bare-bones room with a glass case filled with dried bud and cannabis-laced gummy-worm candies, Rice Krispie treats, cookies and pop.

The clerk there Tuesday declined to identify himself, the manager or the owner, made a quick phone call, and said he’d been told the Citizen should leave the store.
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by papapuff » Wed May 03, 2017 6:07 pm

Ottawa Sun

Charged Ottawa pot shop clerk at centre of constitutional challenge to medical marijuana laws


An Ottawa lawyer is launching a constitutional challenge to Canada’s medical marijuana laws as part of his defence of a pot shop clerk charged with drug trafficking.

Three days have been set aside in an Ottawa court in May 2018 to hear the challenge.

He’s still formulating the case, said lawyer Yavar Hameed. However, Hameed said he may employ some of the arguments that have been used in past successful court challenges. Such challenges, by cannabis activists, first forced the federal government to legalize medical marijuana at the turn of the century, then to broaden the regulations governing its use several times.

A constitutional challenge in 2016, for example, prompted the government to rewrite regulations to allow patients to grow small amounts of medical marijuana for themselves or to designate someone else to do it for them.

That case was on behalf of several patients who said they couldn’t get the quantity and type of medical marijuana they needed, at a reasonable price, from the mail-order government program.

Justice Michael Phelan ruled in February 2016 that the patients’ charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person” were violated because they did not have “reasonable access” to their medicine.

At the time, Phelan did not rule on the constitutionality of the marijuana dispensaries that have popped up across the country. However, his ruling did note that dispensaries are at the “heart” of patient access.

The federal government says the dispensaries operate illegally, peddling products from the black market that are unregulated and potentially unsafe. Patients with a doctor’s prescription can legally buy dried cannabis bud or oil by mail from one of the 43 producers licensed by Health Canada.

Many of the dispensary operators argue they provide patients with a broader range of products, more quickly.

All those arguments will no doubt come into play during the constitutional challenge based on the case of Hameed’s client, Tessa Giberson.

Giberson was arrested in the first sweep by Ottawa police against the illegal dispensaries last November, when six shops were raided in one day. Giberson was a “budtender” at the Green Tree dispensary on Preston Street.

She was charged with 10 counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possessing the property proceeds of crime.

Giberson was in court Wednesday, and her trial was set for April 5, 2018. However, the verdict will probably be suspended pending the results of the constitutional challenge in May, said Hameed.

Giberson has declined to speak to the media.

Another Ottawa budtender who faces drug-trafficking charges, Shawn McAlesse, also expects to be involved in a constitutional challenge. He was in court Wednesday, where he explained that he hasn’t formally retained the lawyer who plans to take on his case. It’s still unclear whether McAlesse will join Giberson’s challenge or file a separate one.

They are among 29 budtenders charged during raids on Ottawa dispensaries.

In Toronto, the Crown has thrown out charges against many of the budtenders arrested in pot-shop raids, while proceeding with charges against owners and managers of the shops.

However, that has not happened in Ottawa.

So far, two Ottawa budtenders have pleaded guilty to one count each of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Both received suspended sentences and probation. The rest of the cases are at various stages in the court system. Wednesday, trial dates were set for two budtenders next April.

Another constitutional challenge to the country’s medical marijuana laws was filed in February on behalf of a Toronto non-profit dispensary. That case, filed in federal court in Vancouver, argues that the medical marijuana rules don’t allow ill Canadians reasonable access to their medicine.

The system is “plagued with problems, including supply shortages, lack of physician participation, inadequate choice of derivative cannabis medicines, recalls of product for mould and other contaminants, and restrictive rules on changing suppliers and how medicine is obtained,” says a statement from Kirk Tousaw, the B.C. lawyer who filed the case in federal court. Tousaw was the lawyer who won the constitutional challenge heard by Justice Phelan in the Federal Court in B.C last year.

“Patients have voted with their feet and their wallets,” said Tousaw’s statement. “Patients need and want dispensary access, and people have been successfully helping patients in the dispensary model for almost twenty years.”
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by papapuff » Sun May 14, 2017 3:24 pm

Ottawa Citizen

City bylaw office joins battle against illegal pot shops by charging one with zoning violation

Jacquie Miller, Ottawa CitizenJACQUIE MILLER, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Published on: May 14, 2017

Ottawa’s bylaw enforcement officers have jumped into the battle against the city’s marijuana dispensaries.

The landlords of the Ottawa Cannabis Dispensary on Laperriere Avenue have been charged with violating city zoning bylaws. The cannabis shop is in a small house painted green, next to an auto body shop and a chip truck. It’s an industrial zone that does not permit retail shops.

The charge is a test case that will help city zoning officials decide whether to take action against other dispensaries.

“We need to make sure if we are going to charge (dispensaries), we have to make sure it sticks,” said David Wise, a program manager for zoning interpretation. “We have this court case going through. We want to know how the courts react to it, the arguments back and forth.”

The dispensaries also sell drugs illegally, of course, but that problem has largely been left to the police. They’ve raided 14 dispensaries since last November and charged employees with drug trafficking. Eight of the shops simply reopened, though, and new ones popped up.

But municipal officials have proceeded cautiously, saying it’s complicated.

Ottawa licenses everything from strip joints to food carts, but the city does not want to create a category for dispensaries for fear of legitimizing the illegal shops. As far as zoning goes, officials say the dispensaries are primarily a criminal, not a land-use problem.

Bylaw officers don’t investigate crimes, and the planning department has no authority to regulate illegal activity, according to a memo from city staff sent in response to a question from Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who is concerned that Montreal Road is turning into pot-shop alley.

“An example is a store which may sell stolen property — it may be zoned to permit a retail use, but the product being sold is not a land-use issue under the Planning Act. This responsibility rests with policing agencies and/or federal agencies.”

Ottawa is watching the opposite approaches taken by two other major Canadian cities wrestling with a proliferation of dispensaries. Vancouver has regulated the illegal shops, requiring business licences and setting out where they can be located and how they operate.

Toronto bylaw officers, on the other hand, have worked in partnership with police to shut down dispensaries, creating a double-whammy of criminal drug charges and municipal zoning and licensing charges.

The City of Toronto has laid 455 charges against employees, dispensary owners and managers, and landlords, says Mark Sraga, director of Investigation Services for the city’s Municipal Licensing & Standards. Most of the charges are still before the courts, but the 33 convictions so far have resulted in fines totalling $54,700, probation orders and store closure orders. The city is also using a “big hammer” by seeking a court injunction against a chain of Canna Clinic dispensaries that continue to operate despite the municipal and criminal charges against them, said Sraga.

The wording of Toronto’s bylaws might make prosecution easier. Toronto, for example, licenses shops that sell packaged food, allowing officials to charge dispensaries selling edible cannabis-laced products like cookies. In Ottawa, food licensing only applies to establishments that prepare food on site.

Ottawa officials are studying whether dispensaries are breaking any bylaws. Last year, a zoning violation notice was issued to Magna Terra Health Services on Iber Road in Stittsville, which is in an industrial zone. Operator Franco Vigile planned to fight it by arguing that he was operating a medical clinic, not a retail store. But Magna Terra closed in March after a police raid.

Now the test case is the little green shop on Laperriere, owned by Sukhwinder and Sukhdev Kaur Singh.

A court date for the zoning violation charge has been set for June 29.

One of the Singhs’ sons, Deep, works in the dispensary and the other, Bikram, works in the family auto-body shop next door. Deep says the dispensary provides low-cost cannabis to friends and family members who need it for medical reasons.

The councillor for the ward, Riley Brockington, says he supports medical marijuana, but not illegal shops. He was upset when the dispensary opened last summer, across the street from a Montessori school, with no notice to his office or nearby residents.

The city is also investigating two other dispensaries located in industrial zones, and others may be under the microscope as well, although Wise declined to give details. “We have a number of cases that are under investigation.”

The operator of a dispensary in an industrial park on Canotek Road in the east end said he deliberately chose an out-of-the-way location that was not close to schools, community centres and pedestrian traffic.

Charlie Cloutier said he wasn’t aware of any zoning violation. “This is news to me.”

This marijuana dispensary is tucked into an industrial park on Antares Drive.Another medical dispensary in an industrial park on Antares Drive does not have an overhead sign, just coverings on the windows saying “OMD.”

Landlord Tim Kimber is a medical marijuana user himself. He said he offered to rent space to the dispensary because it helps patients who can’t obtain the medical marijuana they want from the Health-Canada licensed mail-order companies. Legal suppliers aren’t allowed to sell edible products, for instance, or high-potency concentrates.

OMD is a good, quiet tenant, Kimber said, and he hasn’t received any complaints from neighbouring businesses. “There are no schools around it. It’s not a mainstream retail. It’s not in anybody’s face.”

Two customers interviewed outside OMD said they prefer the industrial park location, which is discreet. “Out of sight, out of mind,” said a 63-year-old man who was buying dried bud to help his back pain. His son, 33, who buys cannabis candy for back and knee pain, said the location is better than one on a major shopping strip because it’s less likely children will be around.

The Herbal Leaf marijuana dispensary on Bank Street opened recently.Location, location, location: Most dispensaries are on busy streets

Most of the city’s 15 dispensaries are tucked alongside stores, restaurants and other businesses on major streets such as Bank and Rideau streets, Montreal Road and Preston Street.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, who has four dispensaries in her downtown ward, says most of the complaints she’s received are not about what’s being sold, but rather the problems caused by customers parking illegally to shop.

She’s asked bylaw officers numerous times to respond to complaints about illegal parking near the Green Tree dispensary on Preston Street. The hair salon owner next door says dispensary customers park in his driveway while they run into the pot shop. Green Tree was raided by police in November, but reopened.

McKenney said she advises constituents who are upset about dispensaries to call police.

“I have some sympathy for police, who say, ‘We can close them down, but they just reopen, and is this the best way to deploy our resources?’ ” said McKenney.

One of the newest dispensaries, Herbal Leaf, opened recently on Bank Street near Glashan intermediate school.

Parent Stephanie ter Veen said she’s concerned because the shop is around the corner from the school on Arlington Avenue. (According to Google Maps, it’s 210 metres from the school to the shop.) Students roam the neighbourhood during lunch hour, and it won’t be long before they discover Herbal Leaf, said ter Veen.

Her daughter is in Grade 8, and knows of several students her age who smoke pot, she said. “I trust my daughter, but I feel anxious having a drug shop next to the school.

“I’m not sure the type of people who are selling the stuff. Are they normal people, or criminals?”

Inside the store, which has tinted windows that prevent anyone from seeing inside, there is a large space painted bright white with green trim. A small room with a door at the back contains cases of dried weed and cannabis-laced cookies, marshmallow treats, candy, tea, and vape pens loaded with cannabis oil.

During a recent visit, a cloud of sweet-smelling smoke filled the store, and one of the three young clerks on duty quickly stubbed out what he had been smoking.

The clerks said they only sell to customers 19 and over. One of them said he arrived one morning to find several youngsters waiting outside the store, but he shooed them away.
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by papapuff » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:35 pm

Ottawa Citizen

West-end illegal pot shop robbed twice on the weekend, says staffer

Published on: June 19, 2017

An illegal pot shop in Ottawa’s west end off Richmond Road was closed Monday after two robberies on the weekend.

The CannaGreen shop at 102 McEwen Ave. was robbed both Friday and Saturday night, according to a staff member. He was working Saturday around 9 p.m. when several young men rushed into the store, which stored the marijuana products in a back room. The staffer, who didn’t want to be identified, said he immediately assumed they were robbers and ran out the back door.

“There were at least two of them,” he said. “I could see they were charging in, so I just ran. I’m not dealing with that.”

Passersby called police. The store was also robbed Friday night, said the staffer, who was not on duty at the time. People in the neighbourhood said there were police cars at the pot shop both Friday and Saturday nights.

Ottawa police confirmed they were called to the store for two reported robberies, at 9 p.m. Friday and again at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The staffer said Monday that there was broken glass inside the store, which was closed to customers.

He’s not returning to work. “I’m not working for them any longer, that’s it for me,” said the young man, who had worked at the shop for about two weeks for a wage of $13 an hour. “I’ll find a better job at Dollarama or something.”

CannaGreen is one of a string of affiliated shops that have popped up in Ottawa run by a B.C.-based outfit. Two of the shops, Herbal Leaf on Bank Street and Trees on Montreal Road, recently closed.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:12 pm

Ottawa's pot shops proliferate, as criminally charged 'budtenders' left waiting to exhale

Jacquie Miller, Ottawa Citizen JACQUIE MILLER, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Published on: July 19, 2017

The number of illegal pot shops in the city is on the upswing, even as the first wave of dispensary employees charged with drug trafficking make their way through the courts.

There are now at least 17 dispensaries selling marijuana over the counter, about the same number that were in town eight months ago when police began raiding them.

The stores are pushing the boundaries as the clock ticks down to July 2018, the date the federal government has promised to make recreational pot legal.

A few of the dispensaries cater only to medical patients. But many sell to anyone over 19, offering a wide variety of weed, cannabis concentrates, vape pens as well as candy, cookies and pop.

They are in discreet offices in suburban industrial parks; boutique-like stores on Bank Street; shabby storefronts on Rideau Street and Montreal Road; and private rooms hidden from public view in head shops.

What they have in common is their popularity.

“A significant number of otherwise law-abiding citizens” are shopping at dispensaries, noted an Ottawa judge Wednesday as he sentenced two young employees who were working at a pot shop on Bank Street when it was raided by police in January.

The “budtenders,” ages 20 and 22, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking. They received conditional discharges, which means they are registered as guilty but will not have criminal records.

In April, two other Ottawa budtenders who pleaded guilty received criminal convictions from another judge who said they had engaged in “blatant drug dealing.”

It’s an indication of the varying approaches as courts, police and prosecutors wrestle with what to do about the illegal shops and the people who own and work in them.

A case in point is the differences between Ottawa and Toronto, which have both seen a proliferation of dispensaries.

Police and city bylaw officers in Toronto launched a major offensive after nearly 80 shops popped up almost overnight in the city in the spring of 2016. In one of the largest drug raids in the city’s history, dubbed Project Claudia, they swooped down on 43 shops in one day in May. As sporadic raids continued in the whack-a-mole fight against the dispensaries, the number of shops dipped as low as 38, according to Mark Sraga, a spokesman for the city’s Licensing & Standards division.

This spring, the number inched back up to about 60 shops. In the past month, police have cracked down yet again, arresting dozens of people in raids on the CannaClinic chain. One shop was raided three times after it kept re-opening.

The current toll after 14 months of police raids in Canada’s largest city? A total of 312 people have faced criminal charges, according to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the agency responsible for prosecuting drug crimes.

The Prosecution Service threw out the vast majority of the charges — 188 of 224 — that were laid against people in 2016. Some charges were resolved after people signed a peace bond whose conditions included not working in dispensaries. In other cases, the Crown decided there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed.

Jack Lloyd, a Toronto lawyer who represents dispensary employees, says he hopes the Crown will also throw out the charges against the 88 people charged so far this year.

Offering peace bonds to so-called budtenders was a “progressive approach” that recognized it’s not in the public interest to prosecute employees, many of whom are in their 20s and working for around minimum wage, he said.

“The vast majority of people think it is a huge waste of resources to charge people and prosecute them, especially when court resources are limited.”

In Ottawa, the dispensaries began to proliferate in the summer of 2016.

Police cracked down in November, raiding seven shops in two days. Sporadic raids have continued, but there have been none since March. The toll? A total of 29 people charged with drug trafficking offences in raids on 14 pot shops.

Prosecutors in Ottawa have not thrown out any of the charges. In the four cases where employees pleaded guilty, prosecutors have asked for criminal convictions in order to deter others and to underline the “serious and prevalent problem” the dispensaries present. The country’s marijuana laws haven’t changed yet, and even when they do the government will not allow sales of the drug from unregulated stores, the Crown argued.

Products in the pot shops are from the black market, and Health Canada warns they may be unsafe.

Crowns in different cities can exercise discretion in deciding whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute each case.

Constitutional challenges

At some of the trials, lawyers in both cities will make constitutional arguments to have charges thrown out. Canadian courts have ruled that under the Charter of Rights patients have the right to “reasonable access” to medical marijuana. Activists have long argued that dispensaries provide such access because not every patient can use the legal system for obtaining medical marijuana. Health Canada-licensed producers, who sell marijuana by mail order, sometimes don’t carry the strains or type of products they need or run out of them, they argue.

In four cases set for trial next spring in Ottawa, time has been set aside for constitutional arguments. In Toronto, Paul Lewin, the lawyer representing many of the dispensary employees there, says he will also be making such arguments, but declined to say for how many clients or when the cases will be heard.

Pot shops in Ottawa: charges and prosecutions

29: People charged in raids at 14 shops since November 2016

4: People who have pleaded guilty. Two received suspended sentences, which carries a criminal conviction, and two received conditional discharges, in which a guilty plea is registered but there is no criminal conviction.

7: People whose cases are set for trial

2: People who will appear in court to enter a plea

16: People still making their way through the court process

Pot shops in Toronto: charges and prosecutions

312: People charged since May 2016

188: People who had charges thrown out after signing a peace bond or because prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to proceed

10: People who have trial dates or preliminary hearings scheduled. Most are owners or managers of dispensaries.

108: People whose cases are making their way through the court process

3: People who pleaded guilty and were sentenced

1: People wanted on a bench warrant

2: Corporations owning dispensaries that pleaded guilty

Pot store budtender’s agonizing choice — roll the dice on a guilty plea, or fight in court?

Selena Holder was struggling to pay her rent with part-time jobs when a friend told her about a pot shop on Rideau Street.

When she dropped by the WeeMedical Dispensary Society in September 2016 and the manager offered her a job, Holder didn’t ask too many questions.

“(The manager) said ‘It’s a grey area, and we haven’t had any problems with the cops. And if we do, we have really good lawyers for you.'”

Other marijuana dispensaries had opened on Bank Street, Preston Street and Montreal Road.

“They are on major streets and the cops haven’t done anything,” Holder thought. “Maybe it’s OK.”

The job didn’t pay much — $12 a hour — but was full time.

“I wanted to see if I could get myself out of debt for the first time in a long time and buy myself things,” explains the soft-spoken Holder. She’s been on her own since leaving home at 16 and has struggled with mental health problems.

Holder worked at the dispensary for six weeks before police came through the door, charging her with drug trafficking. That ended not only her job, but her plans to take a veterinary technician course.

“It took me so long to find a purpose and a reason to be here,” Holder says, explaining how she vowed to turn her life around three years ago after doing a high school co-op placement at a veterinary hospital and discovered a passion for working with animals.

“Now my purpose feels like it’s fizzing out in front of me.”

Holder, 21, got her high school diploma last month. But she can’t do the vet tech course if she has a criminal record, because it requires work placements.

Most jobs require criminal record checks, she says.

Now Holder faces an agonizing choice. Does she plead guilty and hope a judge will spare her? Four of her fellow budtenders in Ottawa have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking: two received criminal records and two did not.

Or does she proceed to trial and take her chances there? That’s unknown territory because no trials have been held yet, in either Ottawa or Toronto. Holder said she’d prefer “option C” — having the charges withdrawn — but that has not happened in Ottawa.

She sighs.

“Definitely it was a stupid decision on my part” to take a job at a pot shop, she says. “I wish I would have known better.”

Holder says she’ll accept the consequences for her poor choice. But she’s angry that her managers at the pot shop and the “big boss” who arrived from B.C. to set up the chain of stores in Ottawa, aren’t facing charges.

“It’s really not fair that he’s (probably) a millionaire and a lot of us are having trouble finding a job now and paying our bills.

“Now my whole life is faded.”
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by papapuff » Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:52 am

This is how easy it is to get weed at Ottawa's illegal pot shops


It’s ridiculously easy to get weed from a storefront in Ottawa today.

With the number of pot shops in the city on the upswing, despite multiple dispensary employees facing drug-trafficking charges following police raids, Postmedia visited the city’s 17 known cannabis stores to find out how they’re screening customers.

The dispensaries are, of course, illegal. But when many of them opened in Ottawa, operators stressed their businesses were serving people who needed medical marijuana.

During Postmedia's informal audit, only four of 17 shops asked for any sort of official documentation to prove a medical official had approved cannabis as a treatment. One of the four wouldn’t discuss selling marijuana until the Postmedia reporter signed a membership form. (The reporter declined to sign the membership form.)

Thirteen stores, meanwhile, indicated the reporter could purchase pot without medical approval.

A Postmedia reporter visited the 17 dispensaries over a three-day period this week posing as a customer without medical approval. No cannabis or weed products were purchased during the short visits.

The visits by suggested raids and arrests haven’t intimidated the majority of these weed shops, which blatantly sell pot and infused products, and in some cases acknowledge their products are for recreational use.

Clearly the federal Liberals’ plan to legalize and regulate cannabis by this time next year has people eager to cash in, even though the province hasn’t determined where pot will be sold.

Once Ontario establishes a regulatory regime, city hall will likely consider its own strategy for applying bylaws, such as zoning rules, to retailers.

Ottawa police have maintained they will continue to investigate storefront weed shops. It’s still a crime to possess and sell pot for non-medical purposes.

People with documentation from their health-care providers can legally buy, and receive through the mail, cannabis from 52 producers currently licensed by Health Canada.

But the illegal storefronts provide immediate access.

During the visits, store workers usually said they needed to see ID before selling, since the general philosophy is to only sell weed to people 19 years old or older. Some shops have signs telling people not to enter if they’re younger than 19.

Among the most overt businesses was Cannabis Culture on Bank Street in Centretown, where a worker noted it’s a “recreational dispensary.” Customers need only show their IDs before going into a back room to choose a product.

At Wee Medical on Rideau Street, a worker said it was none of his business to know customers’ medical conditions if they wanted to buy.

At many places, anyone interested in buying products needed to fill out a form, which could include an explanation of a medical condition, but still no requirement to provide medical proof of that condition.

For example, the form at 613 Medicinals on Montreal Road has a line to write a “medical reason” for buying products.

The GreenTree shops on Preston Street and Montreal Road just wanted to see photo ID before selling. The Preston location permitted sniffing the cannabis in jars (in this case, the “watermelon” product) when asked about a good product to relieve headaches.

A handful of shops indicted they required some form of official documentation beyond an ID card.

The man behind a service window at the Ottawa Cannabis Dispensary on Laperriere Avenue said customers need to show an “LP” card — licensed producer card — before shopping. The painted-green building with a white medical-like cross above the door is behind a food stand and diagonally across the street from a Montessori school.

At the OMD in the Antares Drive business park, a woman behind a window said she needed to see an LP card, doctor’s prescription or a National Access Canada card.

In a business park on Canotek Road in the east end, a staffer at Greenworks Medicinal said he needed to see a prescription from a doctor.

A friendly young man behind the counter at Weeds on Bank Street explained that a doctor’s note or prescription was mandatory before customers signed up for a membership. He wouldn’t even talk about the products the store offers until there was proof of that documentation.

It was a similar experience at Smoke Signalz on Wellington St. W., where a woman was reluctant to discuss the weed in the store until a membership form was signed. Instead, she directed questions about the product to the WeedMaps website.

Shops are branching out to markets beyond the toking crowd. There were canned drinks, candy and chocolate bars in glass display counters at some locations.

At Lifeline Medicinals on Rideau Street, anyone who wanted to buy an infused syrup needed to first sign a waiver. Apparently they’re concerned about people slurping the highly potent syrup before operating heavy machinery.

The results of our window shopping

Smoke Signalz (Wellington Street West location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Green Tree (Preston Street location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Weeds – Asked for medical note or prescription

Cannabis Culture – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Wee Medical (Rideau Street location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Dr. Greenthumbs – Didn’t ask for medical proof

The OMD – Asked for medical proof

Ottawa Cannabis Dispensary – Asked for licensed producer ID

CannaBotanix – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Lifeline Medicinals – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Smoke Signalz (Rideau Street location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

613 Medicinals – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Green Tree (Montreal Road location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Greenworks Medicinal – Asked for doctor’s prescription

Smoke Signalz (St. Joseph Boulevard location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

Wee Medical (St. Laurent Boulevard location) – Didn’t ask for medical proof

CannaGreen – Didn’t ask for medical proof
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by papapuff » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:34 am

Want to shut down an illegal pot shop? Here's one who tried

Jacquie Miller, Ottawa Citizen JACQUIE MILLER, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Published on: August 10, 2017

When a shop openly selling marijuana opened a couple blocks from her home, Angie Todesco was astounded.

A year later, she shuffles through a file folder of official responses from authorities she figured might have some power to shut down a store illegally selling drugs. She’s written, emailed or called everyone from the prime minister to the Manor Park Community Association. “It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” she says.

It’s not easy to get rid of a pot shop.

“Basically, everyone is just standing still and letting it happen,” is Todesco’s conclusion. “Nobody is responsible.”

The federal government has pledged to legalize recreational pot by July 2018. In the meantime, illegal shops proliferate, their numbers barely dented by sporadic police raids. There are about 18 marijuana dispensaries in Ottawa.

Todesco, 71, says she’s no “crazy lady” on a crusade. She’s a baby boomer who went to the University of Toronto back when parts of campus were “drug central” and she’s tried marijuana.

But it offends her sense of justice that drug laws are being broken with impunity, and pot shops tend to set up in “already impoverished and hard-done-by areas.

“It just puzzles me that we are acting in a lazy, nobody-wants-to-take-charge way.”

Todesco supports medical marijuana, which is legal for patients with a prescription who order it by mail from growers licensed by Health Canada.

But Todesco quickly learned that the WeeMedical “Dispensary Society” on St. Laurent Boulevard about 300 metres from her home was operating illegally. “If this is a medical need,” Todesco wrote in one of two emails to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “why is it being introduced with no seeming safeguards in the seediest parts of the city, with everyone turning a blind eye?

“If this is a medical dispensary, why is it not housed in a pharmacy where other pharmaceuticals are dispensed … Is the young man with hat and dark glasses outside on a chair the pharmacist checking that the dosage is correct, that there are no interactions with other medications?”

Todesco said she’s seen Trudeau and his children biking down the parkway along the nearby Ottawa River. In her letter, she invited the prime minister to take a small detour to check out WeeMedical. It adjoins residential areas, including her own quiet, tree-lined street.

The pot shop is also bad for property values, she says. “Nobody in his right mind would want one in the neighbourhood.”

Her concerns are shared by the Manor Park Community Association, which has received numerous complaints about WeeMedical.

“The community’s concerns are first and foremost that marijuana is being sold in a completely inappropriate location close to a public school, park, and housing with many young families,” said a statement from the association.

Representatives from the association have spoken to their city councillor, Tobi Nussbaum, and Ottawa police multiple times to “re-iterate community concerns and press for a course of action that would see WeeMedical close, or relocate to a more appropriate location in conformance with legislation and bylaws. We continue to hear regularly from frustrated residents about the lack of progress by elected officials to provide legal clarity, and the police to enforce the current laws.”

Todesco also worries about pot shop products finding their way into the hands of children. During a visit this week, the store was selling dried weed, vape pens, shatter (concentrated cannabis) cans of pop, brownies and chocolate bars with labels designed to mimic popular bars like Snickers. The company that produces the candy bars, Herbivores Edibles, boasts on its Facebook page that the bars “have no cannabis taste.”

After repeatedly phoning Ottawa police to complain about the shop, Todesco filed a complaint against the force. Ottawa police raided WeeMedical on St. Laurent in November 2016 during a one-day sweep of dispensaries. Staff were charged with drug trafficking, but the shop soon reopened.

An internal police investigation triggered by Todesco’s complaint concluded that police acted appropriately.

Police monitor the pot shops. But they don’t have the staff to allocate “full time resources to individual store front investigations,” said the report. The police service is “actively engaged in this issue with a city wide perspective versus individual store locations.

“This allows the police to prioritize investigative resources, take a more citywide approach to this issue and consider all factors in laying criminal charges.”

The shops pose challenges, said the report. “There is a nomadic nature to these dispensaries. They become travelling road shows to avoid detection …”

The stores are often interconnected, sharing staff and supplies, the report noted. “The high level ownership does not live in Ontario or sometimes in Canada. They acquire their supplies from a varied supply chain, making it difficult to track, predict and therefore interrupt. The staff are often users of the product and are therefore reticent to cooperate with police or any investigative body.”

The police drug unit focuses its attention on the marijuana suppliers, said the report. “The ultimate goal is to limit their ability to operate because of lack of merchandise.”

Police also try to convince landlords to stop renting to dispensaries. Many don’t realize the stores are illegal, said the report. “Many landlords/property owners are victims in this situation in that they were misled and now have lease agreements in place.”

Magued Khristo, the landlord of the building that houses WeeMedical on St. Laurent, said he sent the shop an eviction notice a couple of months ago, but it was ignored.

The rental deal was arranged through a real-estate agent, said Khristo. He said he was under the impression the business was legal. It’s difficult to figure out who is running the shop, because the staff changes frequently, he said.

When the Citizen visited this week, the staffer declined to identify herself or the manager, but promised to pass along a message. No one called back. The store opened last summer when a B.C.-based outfit set up a string of dispensaries in town.

Todesco says her letters to officialdom are getting more snarky as her frustration rises. She won’t give up, though. Her next step is to take the matter to the Ottawa Police Services Board.

“I’m going to push it to the limit. Even if it means annoying them.”

The paper trail

Here are some of the responses Angie Todesco received when she complained about WeeMedical, an illegal pot shop on St. Laurent Boulevard

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Todesco wrote Trudeau in August 2016, saying she was “astounded” that a dispensary had popped up near her home. She had already been told by Health Canada that dispensaries are illegal, she wrote. “Please be advised that your comments have been carefully reviewed,” said the return email from Trudeau’s office.
“As this issue is of particular interest to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your email to them, for their information and consideration.”

(Tedesco sent a second email to Trudeau in December 2016, accusing him of “passing the buck” and saying that “none of these high and mighty ministers … did anything to remove this illegal and dangerous illegal operation.”)

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

In his January 2017 letter, Goodale apologized for taking four months to respond. He said he supports the Health and Justice ministers in “efforts that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana. In doing so, the priority for the government will be to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and take the profits away from criminal enterprises. The transition will take some time. It needs to be accomplished in an orderly manner.”

The letter goes on to explain the federal rules for obtaining medical marijuana, and informs Todesco that a government task force studied legalization and held a public consultation. “I hope you had the opportunity to input your views and perspectives on the legalization and regulation of marijuana.” The letter does not mention dispensaries.

Ottawa police

Tedesco has phoned the Ottawa police five times to complain about WeeMedical. She also wrote to Chief Charles Bordeleau, who emailed her on Nov. 5, 2016, the day after police raided WeeMedical and other pot shops in town. “I hope this is evidence that the Ottawa Police Service is responsive to community concerns,” Bordeleau wrote. “These investigations take time and are complex.” A few days later, Bordeleau emailed Todesco again, saying the two months between the time the shop opened and the raid was “reasonable and responsive.” WeeMedical reopened soon after the raid.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, MPP for Ottawa-Vanier

Marijuana storefronts are illegal, said a letter from Des Rosiers in April 2017. “Local law enforcement is responsible for enforcing the law and so we expect that the Ottawa Police Service will continue to do so until the law changes.” If Todesco was not satisfied with the way Ottawa police handled the issue, she could contact the Office of the Independent Police Review, an independent, arm’s-length agency of the provincial Attorney General, the letter said.

Office of the Independent Police Review Director

Todesco filed a complaint with the office on April 18. “I feel ignored and belittled by the police who feel it is fine that I live two blocks from an illegal operation visited by strange men in hoodies, primarily at night and are dismissive of my concerns that they are doing nothing.” The OIPRD ordered an investigation by the Ottawa Police Service Professional Standards Section.

The Ottawa Police Service Professional Standards Section

The section issued a report on July 10, saying police followed proper procedures and noting that they have discretion on whether to lay charges. The report outlined some of the difficulties police encounter in investigating the shops, and said the force will take a “city wide” approach to the issue and focus on disrupting the supply chain of drugs. Todesco can request a review by the Ottawa Police Services Board, said the report. She intends to do so.

Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Attorney General

“The operation of illegal dispensaries in Ontario is a concern and the province is working with the federal government to explore ways to ensure that the law is followed until it is changed,” wrote Naqvi in an email last month. “Further questions about the enforcement of existing laws with respect to cannabis dispensaries should be directed to the federal government or local law enforcement.” Prosecution of charges is the responsibility of the federal prosecution service, said the letter, which provided the address for the Department of Justice. It also urged Todesco to fill out the province’s online survey about how Ontario should regulate cannabis.

Manor Park Community Association president Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté

LaRochelle-Côté has communicated with Todesco several times and accompanied her to a meeting with Ottawa police.

City Coun. Tobi Nussbaum

LaRochelle-Côté forwarded an email from Nussbaum’s office on the issue, which said Nussbaum has talked to both city staff and the police. City staff advised that “there is currently no process or requirement for a municipal license for this kind of commercial activity and that the city does not regulate illegal commerce.”

“As the federal government moves forward on their pledge to legalize marijuana, other levels of government will be in a position to better control the location and operation of these kinds of businesses,” said the email from one of Nussbaum’s staff. “Until that point the responsibility for enforcement rests with Ottawa Police Services. Tobi has been in communication with the police who confirmed that they are aware of this location and monitoring the situation.”

Isra Levy, medical officer of health, Ottawa Public Health

Todesco asked Dr. Levy whether the unit could monitor pot shops from a public health perspective, such as determining whether the products are medically safe and customers have prescriptions dispensed by a qualified health practitioner. She received at least three responses. The first, from an official in the department, said: “Ottawa Public Health continues to monitor this issue and work with city partners in this regard.”

After Todesco sent scathing emails in return, Levy replied: “If you see ongoing activity that you think constitutes criminal activity I do encourage you to continue to report that to law enforcement authorities.” A response from another staffer explained that public health has no authority to regulate or ban illegal dispensaries. Todesco should contact Health Canada and/or the police, it said.
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by papapuff » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:40 am

Ottawa Sun

Illegal west end pot shop robbed third time in two months


An illegal west-end pot shop has not let a recent string of robberies run it out of business.

The CannaGreen shop at 102 McEwen Ave., off Richmond Road, was robbed for the third time in two months this past weekend. Late Monday morning, the front glass door of the business remained shattered, evidence of a Saturday night smash and grab.

The vandalized door was propped open, allowing for the scent of pot to emanate from the store that appeared to have patrons coming and going. Two employees — one behind a glass display case and the other behind a wall with a service window where customers receive product from the back room — would not comment on the incident.

“We can’t really say anything, because we don’t know much,” said one employee.

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Mike Haarbosch of the robbery unit said a passerby reported the latest incident to police Sunday. Haarbosch confirmed the suspects took “various product.”

“There may be some (marijuana product) that was locked up, but there were display cases that certainly were cleaned out; those were emptied. … I can’t really give you an idea of what exactly was taken, which is part of the ongoing issue. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get information out of these places.”

This is the third time this shop has been robbed in the past month. On Saturday, June 17, around 9 p.m., an employee was working when several young men rushed into the store. The staffer, who didn’t want to be identified, said he immediately assumed they were robbers and ran out the back door. The same employee told police the store was also robbed a day earlier, when he was not on duty.

CannaGreen is one of a string of affiliated shops that have popped up in Ottawa run by a B.C.-based outfit. Two of the shops, Herbal Leaf on Bank Street and Trees on Montreal Road, recently closed.

Pot shops are illegal, but have proliferated in advance of the federal government’s promised legalization of marijuana. People with documentation from their health-care providers can legally buy, and receive through the mail, medicinal cannabis from 52 producers licensed by Health Canada.
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by papapuff » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:34 am

Ottawa Sun

City councillor asks police chief to close west-end pot shop



Bay Ward Coun. Mark Taylor has written a letter to police Chief Charles Bordeleau asking Bordeleau to close a marijuana pot dispensary on McEwen Avenue.

The letter comes days after the west-side dispensary was robbed for the third time in two months.

“I am writing you today with respect to the CanaGreen marijuana location at 102 McEwen Ave. in my ward, its ongoing illegal activities and the repeated break-in events that have occurred there,” Taylor said Thursday in his letter, which he also posted on Twitter.

CannaGreen is one of a string of affiliated shops that have popped up in Ottawa run by a British Columbia outfit. Two of the shops, Herbal Leaf on Bank Street and Trees on Montreal Road, recently closed.

“I am moved however on behalf of my community to request more direct and visible action to close the 102 McEwen Ave. CannaGreen location promptly, ceasing its own illegal operation and its action as a magnet for additional criminal activity.”

Pot shops are illegal, but have proliferated in advance of the federal government’s promised legalization of recreational marijuana.

People with documentation from their health-care providers can legally buy, and receive through the mail, medicinal cannabis from 52 producers licensed by Health Canada.

A police spokesman declined to comment on Taylor’s request.
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