‘Ottawa’ Ottawa Pot Shot Budtenders Plead Guilty to Drug Trafficking, Get Suspended Sentences
The first two of 29 Ottawa pot shops clerks charged in police raids have gone through the courts and received suspended sentences.
Budtenders Sarah Scott and Joshua Zvonar pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of possession for the purpose of trafficking. They were arrested last November in the first Ottawa police sweep against illegal marijuana dispensaries, when six shops were raided in a single day.
Scott and Zvonar were initially charged with nine counts each of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possessing the property proceeds of crime.
Their defence asked for a conditional discharge, which would mean they would not have a criminal record.
However, the Crown argued a conviction was needed to deter others from engaging in “blatant criminal activity,” to make the public aware of the consequences of working at an illegal dispensary, and to make it more difficult for the illegal businesses to re-open, said Nathalie Houle, spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
The court imposed a criminal conviction with a suspended sentence and 12 months’ probation for both budtenders, with the condition they not possess any controlled drugs without a prescription.
The other budtenders charged in police raids are making their way through the court system. All face similar charges, including multiple counts of drug trafficking.
Dispensary workers across Canada have been charged as police crack down on the illegal shops popping up in advance of the federal government’s promise to legalize recreational pot. In Toronto, the Crown has thrown out charges against many of the budtenders while proceeding with charges against owners and managers of the shops.
Police and Health Canada warn that the dispensaries carry products from the black market that are unregulated and possibly unsafe. Dispensary workers say they are providing a service for both medical and recreational users, and that prosecuting them is a waste of money.
Scott and Zvonar worked at the Green Tree dispensary on Bank Street, which closed after the November raid.
It was one of seven related shops set up by a B.C. outfit last summer operating under the names Green Tree, WeeMedical and Cannagreen. All were raided, but four re-opened.
The number of dispensaries in Ottawa fluctuates, with some closing after raids, robberies or landlord disputes, and new ones opening. There are about 12 dispensaries in town now.
A new Cannagreen dispensary popped up about a week ago in the west end in a strip mall on McEwen Avenue. It’s a bare-bones room with a glass case filled with dried bud and cannabis-laced gummy-worm candies, Rice Krispie treats, cookies and pop.
The clerk there Tuesday declined to identify himself, the manager or the owner, made a quick phone call, and said he’d been told the Citizen should leave the store.