Mal McMeekin, Tasty Budd’s franchise founder (Free Press file photo)
The owners of three London pot shops are among eight people charged in a crackdown on marijuana dispensaries.
But a critic said he doubts the charges announced Friday by London police will hold up in court with Canada set to legalize the drug.
Five men and three women face a combined 24 counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking following police searches of five marijuana dispensaries across London on March 2.
Those charged include Mal McMeekin, 34, the Tasty Budd’s franchise founder; Kara Barber, 30, owner of Healing Health; and Charles Colvin, 28, chief executive of the Chronic Hub.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for McMeekin, a Halifax native who travelled to London in August to open the Wharncliffe Road dispensary.
McMeekin, who couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, wasn’t charged when police previously searched Tasty Budd’s in the summer.
Authorities across the country stepped up their battle against dispensaries this week.
Former Londoner Marc Emery and his wife, Jodie, were released on bail Friday after they were arrested Wednesday at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
Police across the country launched a series of co-ordinated searches Thursday of marijuana dispensaries linked to the Vancouver-based marijuana advocates.
Police seized $250,000 in cash in several currencies after searching seven Cannabis Culture stores and several homes.
Officers seized more than 65 kilograms of marijuana, 2.4 kg of cannabis extract and other drug paraphernalia.
Authorities searched Cannabis Culture locations in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Vancouver. By Friday, most of the shops had reopened.
Emery, 59, faces 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime, while Jodie Emery, 32, is charged with five similar counts.
One leading lawyer for marijuana activists says the charges against people swept up in recent searches won’t stick in court.
“They’ll most likely be dropped or stayed,” Vancouver-based lawyer Robert Laurie said.
“If the court system is already overstrained . . . dealing with serious crimes, then I honestly think judges are going to be scratching their heads and saying, ‘Why is this in front of me?’ ”
Dispensaries are illegal under a federal law that limits the sale of marijuana for medicinal use to a few dozen government-approved commercial producers.
Hundreds of pot shops have sprouted in Canadian cities since the federal Liberals swept to power in 2015 with a vow to bring in legislation this spring to legalize recreational marijuana use and regulate its sale.
Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, now a Liberal MP, is the point man on the plan.
Blair’s recent visit to London on Feb. 28 — just two days before the raids — prompted many to speculate that he delivered the Prime Minister’s message that municipalities should enforce the law when it comes to dispensaries to Chief John Pare.
But police denied the crackdown had anything to do with Blair’s visit, saying the raids were a response to citizen complaints.
So far, three of the raided London dispensaries have vowed to reopen.
Dispensary client Cayla Cornell started a petition demanding city officials allow the shops to operate freely.
Cornell, 26, said she’s already collected hundreds of signatures for the petition, which is available at the Chronic Hub on Dundas Street.
- Perry Middaugh, 55, of Markstay
- Emily Pavlech, 23, of London
- Kara Barber, 30, of London
- Fallon Altwasser, 26, of Kitchener
- Mal McMeekin, 34, of no fixed address
- Nathan Hall, 26, of London
- Charles Colvin, 28, of London
- Paisley Grey, 23, of London
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