Pot Retail Workers’ Sentencings Slowly Work Their Way Through Day in Court

Article by Jane Sims, London Free Press

Pot retail workers' sentencings slowly work their way through day in court JANE SIMS The London Relief Centre (Free Press file photo)

It’s taking a long time to give a gaggle of illegal pot dispensary clerks their court-ordered discharges.
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Round 2 lurched forward Monday when another group of people appeared before Ontario Court Justice Mark Poland. Each given some form of discharge that will spare each of them a criminal record.
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Eleven people were dealt with last month, with almost all of them agreeing to the joint sentencing offer of a conditional discharge with 12 months of probation, 50 hours of community service and a 10-year weapons prohibition.
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But some are hedging their bets and having defence lawyer and cannabis law expert Jack Lloyd advocate for absolute discharges.
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That’s making the process lengthier because it requires Lloyd to make submissions to Poland about why these folks — many of whom are high-achieving students without criminal records and with loads of volunteer and work experience — should be given a pass.
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Twenty-eight people were charged after the London Relief Centre on Richmond Street and Healing Health on Wonderland Road were raided by the police on Nov. 29, 2018, more than a month after marijuana was decriminalized on Oct. 17, 2018.
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Ontario law at that time said pot could be purchased legally only in small quantities using a government-run mail delivery service.
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The two storefronts were claiming to be medical pot dispensaries, but were selling to practically anyone who came in from the street, prescription or no.
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Monday saw the last of the London Relief Centre employees sentenced, and there was hope that more would be processed. The day was bogged down early when a lengthy sentencing on another matter delayed the pot hearings until late in the morning.
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Then no transcript was available of the lengthy set of reasons Poland gave in January, so a half-hour audio tape had to be played in support of the guilty pleas before anyone could be sentenced.
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The first accused, a 35-year-old man with goals to be an artist and photographer, had been using marijuana for his mental health conditions. He had no criminal record and now works at a legal marijuana store. He was granted a conditional discharge.
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The next accused, a 23-year-old man, jumped at the plea deal. Poland said he “doesn’t want (the accused) to think it’s turnstile justice here,” but quickly granted the conditional discharge.
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“I actually only worked at the dispensary for an hour and a half,” the man told Poland, explaining he was busted on his first day of work.
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The next man, 28, had a criminal record that ended in 2011. He had a difficult upbringing, but is now engaged and a young father. Federal Crown prosecutor Trevor Pellerine argued for a suspended sentence with 12 months of probation due to the man’s criminal record.
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“I’m trying to turn my life around for my son and my soon-to-be wife,” the man told Poland. “I don’t want to be here again. I just want to get on the straight and narrow and get on with my life.”
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He was granted a conditional discharge and Poland suggested he use his community service hours to explore a possible career in construction, as he had told the judge he wanted to pursue.
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Lloyd pitched an absolute discharge and a peace bond for a 27-year-old woman who has been on the dean’s list at college and has been working with children and youth.
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She told Poland in a letter to the court about her use of marijuana since she was a teenager. Last summer, she had a legal licence to sell pot. After three months, she walked away from the business and the drug and decided to devote herself to her chosen profession. Lloyd argued a conditional discharge might be a hurdle in the way of her getting a job.
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“Our job is not to help people get employment,” Pellerine said, adding if she had concern about her future, “don’t get a part time job selling drugs illegally. . . . If anyone put up a hurdle, she put up a hurdle for herself.”

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