Ottawa’s Pot Shops Proliferate, as Criminally Charged ‘Budtenders’ Left Waiting to Exhale

Article by Jacquie Miller, Ottawas Sun

Ottawa's pot shops proliferate, as criminally charged 'budtenders' left waiting to exhale. Selena Holder and her dog Rusty pose for a photo outside her home. Holder worked at the Rideau Street WeeMedical shop for about six weeks when it was raided, she now faces a possible criminal record, which could interfere with her plans to become a vet tech

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.

Read full article here.

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