Three people and a trio of companies face charges in connection with the alleged operation of an illicit cannabis manufacture and online distribution network.
They’re the first charges laid against illegal online cannabis operators in Calgary since recreational legalization took effect in October 2018 and are being welcomed by those in the legal industry.
Calgary police say they were called to an apartment suite in the 1200 block of 17th Avenue S.W. in the early morning hours of Aug. 24, 2019, for reports of a break and enter.
Police say they located an illegal cannabis operation inside the apartment, but the renters or owners were not there, nor were they believed to be living at that location.
Police executed a Cannabis Act warrant later that day to facilitate the search and seizure of the products within the apartment.
About $163,000 worth of cannabis products were seized, including dried cannabis in different strains (3,571 grams), pre-rolled joints, several types of edibles, oils and cannabis-infused creams, according to Calgary police.
This prompted a lengthy investigation, carried out by police with help from the City of Calgary business licensing and development inspection services, and in consultation with Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.
“During the investigation, evidence was obtained which identified an illegal online cannabis business being operated under the names Holdenherb and Graydon Green Compassion Club,” Calgary police stated.
The online sales were allegedly operated by two people who had been denied licences by AGLC and the City of Calgary. Those two individuals allegedly fled Calgary and are wanted on warrants by police for the possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling.
Police say they likely fled to Nova Scotia.
Those in the legal cannabis industry have been hopeful that law enforcement would crack down on the black market. Illicit operations continue to retain most of the sales in Canada, said John Carle, executive director of the Alberta Cannabis Council which represents retailers and licensed producers.
“The black market currently controls 80 per cent of the cannabis market but it’s not that we’re competing with them, we just want them to be legal,” said Carle.
“We’re very glad to hear authorities have taken this action — these illegal activities sully the entire industry.”
He said legalization has muddied people’s perception of what’s illegal in the cannabis business and the public needs to better understand the difference between what is and isn’t regulated — much of it for safety reasons.
Suspect Chrissy Jennifer Jahntz, 34, is described as Caucasian, 5-feet-6 tall and weighing around 100 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. Craig Graydon Douglas Bushell, 40, is described as Caucasian, 5-feet-10 tall, weighing 165 pounds, and bald with hazel eyes.
The investigation also revealed the property manager of the apartment building in question to have been allegedly complicit in the operation of the illicit cannabis operation, according to police.
Jahntz, Bushell and 39-year-old Scott Raymond Tulk, along with Vista Group Inc., Graydon Green Compassion Club, and Alberta numbered companies 2007668 and 2099942, have been charged with:
- Unlawfully carrying on the business of a cannabis store without a valid City of Calgary Business Licence contrary to Section 3(1) of The City of Calgary Business Licence Bylaw 32M98
- Operating a cannabis store without a development permit where one is required contrary to Section 49(2)(b) of the Land Use Bylaw 1P2007
- Operating a cannabis facility that is not a permitted or a discretionary use in the land use district contrary to Section 49(2)(c) of the Land Use Bylaw 1P2007
Penalties under these regulatory charges include fines up to $10,000, up to six months in jail or both. Penalties under the criminal charges laid by police range from a fine of $5,000 to 14 years in jail.
“Illicit operations such as this pose a significant danger to the neighbours, especially in an apartment. The process used to extract concentrates has a high potential for causing explosions. Operations that include grows also have added fire and mould risks,” Calgary police Det. Chris Pollock said in a statement.