Article by Jane Sims, London Free Press
People caught up in police raids of London pot dispensaries last year are facing sentencing in the new year.
On Wednesday, seven people pleaded guilty under the Cannabis Act to possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling it, joining eight other guilty pleas in related cases.
More are coming and all of them, 28 so far, will be linked up on Jan. 22 for a sentencing hearing.
The charges stem from the months before and after the legalization of marijuana in Canada in October 2018. After legalization, the drug was available legally only through a government-run delivery service before stores opened in April.
Black market dispensaries continued to operate past the legalization date, leading to police investigations and ultimately shutdowns.
The seven accused who entered guilty pleas Wednesday before Ontario Court Justice Mark Poland worked at the London Relief Centre at 691 Richmond St, which was the subject of two police raids in November and December 2018.
Federal drug prosecutor Trevor Pellerine told Poland police had already investigated the site in April 2018 after a break-in. At that time, police seized $85,840 worth of pot products.
Police were back again in August 2018 after a break-in and a gunpoint robbery.
Police returned on Sept. 12, 2018, just after 3 p.m. when they found staff and customers inside the store. There were several shelves of containers of marijuana bud and a safe in the back containing more bud and money. The customers were allowed to leave. The total value of the drugs seized was $25,750, along with $5,561.70 in cash, Pellerine said.
On Nov. 29, 2018, an OPP-led investigation, with assistance of London police, led to a search warrant and raid on the address because it was operating as a retail storefront. Another dispensary, Healing Health on Wonderland Road, was raided the same day. Seventeen people were charged.