Pot dispensery workers stage protest before their court case
Five clerks who were charged during a police raid on a Cannabis Culture shop earlier this month staged a protest at the courthouse Wednesday before their first appearance on drug trafficking charges.
The “budtenders” were joined by half a dozen supporters who waved signs saying “Free the Weed!” and “No Prison for Pot.”
The clerks are among 29 people charged in police raids on 14 marijuana dispensaries in Ottawa since last November. Police have warned that the dispensaries are illegal, and carry products that are unregulated and may be unsafe.
Cannabis Culture is a brand created by activists Marc and Jodie Emery, sometimes dubbed Canada’s Prince and Princess of Pot. The Emerys were arrested earlier this month as part of a Toronto police operation against the chain.
Budtender Alexander Newcombe, who was at the courthouse, called the raids a waste of money because the government has promised to legalize recreational marijuana.
“We hope the Crown will wise up and drop the charges.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted to smoking pot himself when he was an MP, Newcombe said. “So why doesn’t he put himself up for charges? “It’s a joke at this point.” Another of the five budtenders said he made a living for a decade as a “small-time” dealer selling weed to friends before he got the job at Cannabis Culture. Dispensaries have taken business away from street dealers, said the man, who uses marijuana himself for a stomach condition. “I don’t have a criminal record, I have a daughter to take care of and a wife with medical issues. There’s no way in hell I can go to jail.”
Budtender Michael Patterson said the customers at Cannabis Culture are a mix of medical and recreational marijuana users of every age and description, from grandmothers to civil servants who drop in on their lunch hour.
The budtenders were represented in court by the law firm of Kirk Tousaw, a B.C. lawyer specializing in cannabis law, who was part of charter challenges that forced the federal government to allow medical patients to grow their own pot and have access to cannabis derivatives.