Just shy of four months before recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, a Saint John judge has given conditional or absolute discharges to seven people charged after police raids on medical cannabis dispensaries.
The former dispensary workers were charged with possession and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
In provincial court Tuesday, Kyle Joseph Owens, Jonathan Lambert, Odessa Parsons, Mark Sean Splude, Anthony Robert Bryant, Alex Bowe Merchant and Stephanie Lee Wilcox all pleaded guilty.
The seven, who either worked or ran cannabis dispensaries in the city, were charged after raids on the outlets in the winter 2017. Four of the seven employees had no prior records.
Owens, Lambert, and Parsons received conditional discharges and were ordered to pay victim fine surcharges ranging from $400 to $600. Owens and Lambert were put on probation for a year and Parson for nine months.
They have to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and not work at or visit places where cannabis is sold.
Splude, Bryant, Merchant and Wilcox all received absolute discharges.
Arguing for absolute discharges, defence lawyer Jeremy Doucet referred to the coming legalization of cannabis, with Bill C-45 going into effect in October.
“The public view of marijuana prosecutions has shifted,” said Doucet, adding that his clients earned minimum wage from the dispensaries and didn’t profit directly from the cannabis they sold.
‘Sense of relief’
The maximum penalties for trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking range from up to five years to life in prison, depending on the quantity of drugs seized.
Doucet requested an absolute discharge for Bryant, Merchant, and Wilcox, all of whom were working at HBB Medical when police executed search warrants on March 21, 2017.
HBB Medical’s locations were among several locations targeted by police in two separate raids in 2017. (CBC)
Anything less, Doucet said, could negatively