Toronto police have responded to the illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the city by raiding many of them, charging staff with drug trafficking.
But as those cases hit the courts, many charges against the clerks who call themselves “budtenders” have been thrown out, according to statistics from the federal agency responsible for prosecuting drug crimes.
At the same time, no charges have been withdrawn in Ottawa, where police have raided 12 dispensaries and charged 22 people with drug trafficking since November.
Since last May, 10 people charged in Toronto raids have been committed to trial, all of them dispensary owners and managers. Another 151 people caught up in raids have had their charges stayed and/or withdrawn, according to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. In most of those cases, the accused were required to sign a peace bond after the Crown decided it wasn’t in the public interest to prosecute them. In a minority of cases, the Crown threw out the charges without condition after deciding there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.
The Crown’s handling of “budtender” cases in Toronto will likely be closely watched by police and municipalities across Canada — including in Ottawa, where most legal proceedings against “budtenders” are in their infancy.
It’s not clear what approach will be taken by the Crown toward dispensary staff who have been arrested in Ottawa or elsewhere. Federal Crown attorneys in various districts make those decisions independently. Across Ontario, there have been police raids on dispensaries in at least 13 smaller cities: Windsor, Waterloo, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Barrie, Oshawa, Whitby, Peterborough, Hamilton, Burlington, Brantford and Kingston.