Dispensary owner says she and others should be pardoned once pot is legal

At CannaGems in Hamilton’s International Village, marijuana-inspired jewelry dangles delicately from the displays.

There are blown glass ornaments that looks like octopus tentacles. There’s an assortment of leather strap beads. There are earrings in the shape of turtles.

This is the only marijuana-related business Britney Guerra can legally operate anymore — at least for the foreseeable future. She’s on probation for charges relating to operating Hamilton’s now-closed Cannabis Culture dispensary.

In July, marijuana will be legal in Canada, and the Ontario government will sell pot through the LCBO. Meanwhile, Guerra and thousands of others will still have criminal records.

Until she and others are pardoned for pot crimes, she said, that’s hypocritical.

“With a criminal record, there are varying degrees of stigma but there’s always a stigma,” says Jack Lloyd, whose interest in marijuana inspired him to become a lawyer. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

“There are people who have had marijuana charges for 20 years who are still going to be walking around with marijuana charges.”

Guerra, 30, has a personal stake in this. In December, she pleaded guilty to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, and one count of possessing profits from the proceeds of crime over $5,000. She was fined $13,000 and received 18 months of probation. The conditions include not operating a dispensary.

But she’s not the only one making the argument. Sarnia’s mayor, for example, has called on the Trudeau government to clear the criminal records of people charged with pot possession.

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, extends that to dispensary workers. The current system criminalizes small business owners, he said, while government insiders are getting rich.

Corporations, politicians and bureaucrats are investing in pot, he said. That includes Hamilton’s mayor, former MP Gary Goodyear and former MP and Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, who once compared weed to murder.

Britney Guerra serves customers at Cannabis Culture in early 2017. The dispensary was raided and shut

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