New Brunswick

Trafficking charges dropped against former Tribal ReLeaf dispensary workers

Trafficking charges against two former employees of Tribal ReLeaf, an on-reserve cannabis dispensary, were dropped Thursday.

Cannabis charges came after RCMP raided cannabis shop on Tobique First Nation

The Tobique First Nation chief and council passed a motion to allow cannabis sales on the reserve in western New Brunswick. Only government-operated stores are allowed to sell cannabis in the province. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

Trafficking charges against two former employees of Tribal ReLeaf, an on-reserve cannabis dispensary, were dropped Thursday.

Co-accused Gerald Bear and Tina Marie Sappier-Bear pleaded not guilty in late August to five cannabis trafficking charges after a raid on the dispensary, now called Tribal, in Tobique First Nation.

For the charges to be dropped, the married couple chose to plead guilty to an amended charge of possession of cannabis not exceeding three kilograms.

Bear, who was the manager of Tribal ReLeaf, said he wasn't willing to comment on the developments yet but would "have a story to tell" after sentencing, which is scheduled for May 31.

Gerald Bear, who ran Tobique First Nation's Tribal ReLeaf, was charged last summer with cannabis trafficking. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

The two were originally charged with trafficking cannabis exceeding three kilograms, cannabis resin exceeding three kilograms and cannabis resin not exceeding three kilograms, possessing proceeds of crime not exceeding $5,000 and possession of cannabis exceeding three kilograms. 

Judge Brian C. McLean thanked Crown lawyer Len MacKay for coming to a resolution and sparing the courts the week-long trial that was originally scheduled.

In the fall of 2017, RCMP raiding Tribal ReLeaf encountered a blockade set up by members of the community, about 85 kilometres north of Woodstock.

The raid brought on assertions of sovereignty by Tobique, since chief and council had passed a motion to allow the sale of cannabis on the reserve even before the drug was legalized by the federal government.

Chief Ross Perley of Tobique First Nation previously said that even though Bear and Sappier-Bear do not work for the dispensary now, the community stood by them and their right to sell cannabis.

Only government-operated cannabis stores are allowed to sell cannabis products in New Brunswick. Since last year, another on-reserve cannabis store opened up in Oromocto First Nation, which started as a branch of Tribal ReLeaf but recently changed its name to Welamukotuk Wellness.

Tribal has stayed open throughout the case.