Ottawa budtenders charged during dispensary raids abandoned by employers

Photo credit: Ottawa Citizen

On Nov. 4th, 2016, Ottawa Police raided 6 dispensaries and arrested 9 frontline employees (also known as budtenders). All 9 budtenders have been charged and to make matters even worse, their employers have abandoned them- that means no lawyer, no legal fees, nothing.

The cannabis community is famous for coming together and helping out their own, and the fact that the dispensaries aren’t doing anything to fight for their employees is both sad and a bit of a shock.

One of the budtenders facing drug trafficking charges is Shawn Mac, and he we met him at the recent Prairie Medicinal Harvest Cup where he won a cup for his activism.

Completely cut off and feeling betrayed by the 2 dispensaries he worked at, WeeMedical and Green Tree, Shawn has started a GoFundMe page on behalf of himself and the other employees to help with the costs of their upcoming court battles.

He’s trying to raise $5000 through the GoFundMe page because, as we all know, legal fees can be extremely expensive- just retaining a lawyer will be $5000, and the fees are only going to grow as the case goes on.

It’s not like the dispensaries are hurting for cash either- Shawn said that the dispensaries made about $8000-$12,000 per day, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

If you don’t think it’s fair that these front-line budtenders who are making just $12/hr are facing tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and criminal records while the dispensaries they worked for simply re-open after the raids and continue business as usual, please show your support by sharing and/or donating to the GoFundMe page.

Ottawa dispensary
Shawn Mac, one of the budtenders facing charges. Photo credit: Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa versus Toronto

These raids show no signs of slowing down, but it is interesting to see how different cities in Ontario are cracking down on the dispensaries in the province.

The biggest contrast is between Ottawa and Toronto, where Toronto has seen the majority of the charges dropped. According to a story in the Ottawa Sun, Toronto dropped 188 of the 224 dispensary-related charges from raids in 2016, which included the largest raid in the city’s history, Project Claudia.

On the other hand, Ottawa shows no signs it will follow Toronto as it pursues charges against those arrested in similar raids in the city, making good on Ontario’s announcement last month that all dispensaries operating outside of the province’s LCBO-controlled liquor model are illegal.

Ottawa isn’t slowing down either- 2 dispensaries were raided on Oct. 4th, the Cannabis Culture on Bank St. and Dr. Greenthumb.

Overall, Ottawa Police have raided 18 dispensaries this year, according to a story in the Ottawa Citizen.

We need leaders to step up and fight for what’s right

Maybe the biggest question is why are we wasting so much time and resources to prosecute people (and ruin lives) for something that will be legal in 9 months? And if the police are bringing charges, why are they only charging the low level employees who can least afford to defend themselves?

As we’ve seen, many dispensaries that get raided simply re-open for business the very next day. Tickets and fines don’t make a dent when you’re pulling in tens of thousands of dollars a day, and dispensaries like Green Tree and WeeMedical will simply replace the budtenders who get arrested- they don’t seem to care.