Charges dropped against dozens of Ontario budtenders

While Toronto police continue to deploy vast resources as part of a crackdown on medical cannabis dispensaries, the criminal charges against people they’ve arrested are generally being thrown out of court.

According to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, a total of 151 dispensary workers busted since last May have had charges against them dropped.

Budtenders, many in their 20s and earning low wages, were either required to sign a peace bond after the Crown decided it wasn’t in the public interest to prosecute them or, in some cases, charges were dropped entirely due to their being no reasonable prospect of conviction, the Ottawa Citizen reported yesterday.

Peace bonds are usually issued in connection with low-level crimes such as shoplifting or mischief rather than trafficking charges.

The federal Liberal government has promised to table legislation to legalize recreational cannabis use within the next three months.

Toronto police have argued the raids help protect the community from products that haven’t been approved by Health Canada and also because dispensaries have repeatedly been hit by armed robbers, who know many pot shops workers won’t call the cops out of fear of being arrested for drug trafficking. There have been a total of seven reported dispensary robberies so far in 2017, five of them involving guns, according to Toronto police.

“Employees and customers have been stabbed, pistol-whipped and pepper-sprayed,” Supt. Bryce Evans said in January. By not reporting robberies to police, Evans said owners and operators are giving an “open invitation to victimization,” but admitted police will also seize any cannabis products found during an investigation.

Last May, Toronto police led another offensive across Ontario they called Project Claudia, raiding 43 shops in a single day and arresting 90 people. Last week they led another series of raids across the country targeting the owners of Cannabis Culture outlets rather than staff, and arrested Marc and Jodie Emery, Chris and Erin Goodwin, and Britney Guerra on numerous charges.