Cannabis Pioneers Who Went to Jail For The Cause Now Watch Legal Opportunities Pass Them By

Article by Mike Hager, Globe and Mail

Pot pioneers who went to jail for the cause now watch legal opportunities pass them by MIKE HAGER Don Briere sorts through bins of cannabis at the production facility for his multiple dispensaries on the first day of the legalization of cannabis in Vancouver, B.C. on Oct. 17, 2018. BEN NELMS PART

Don Briere was 19 when he bought his first half pound of marijuana from a local dealer in New Westminster, B.C., in the early 1970s.
He and a friend pooled $600 from their $3.15-an-hour wages at a local sawmill to purchase a large quantity of Mexican product “full of lumber [stems] and full of seeds.” They picked out the buds and packaged them into one-ounce baggies to sell to friends for $20 each, making about $4 profit per sale and fully subsidizing their own consumption of a drug he believes can cure a variety of society’s ills.
Over the ensuing four decades, his passion for growing and selling the plant cost him several years in federal prison for running one of B.C.’s largest networks of illegal grow operations in the 1990s. More recently, he has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in municipal fines and lawyer’s fees fighting cities across the country trying to keep his national chain of illegal Weeds dispensaries open.
Now, at the outset of legalization, people who defied prohibition in high-profile ways appear to be getting shut out of a burgeoning industry just as the former police officers and politicians that they once battled continue to land lucrative gigs working with commercial cannabis producers.
Those caught and sentenced for operating large production networks, like Mr. Briere, or running illegal dispensary franchises, like Marc and Jodie Emery, have so far been unable to get past the security screening and into the regulated space under the current rules. They also won’t qualify for the amnesty that Ottawa has promised for the tens of thousands of other Canadians saddled with a conviction for the possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis.

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