Dispensary owner hopes charges will be thrown out once pot is legalized
Trudeau government pledged to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana this spring
The owner of a marijuana dispensary in downtown Halifax hopes the drug charges she's facing will be thrown out if federal legislation legalizing marijuana passes this spring.
Shirley Martineau, owner of Auntie's Health and Wellness on Barrington Street, was charged last week with cultivating marijuana and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Three other employees face charges of possession of cannabis resin and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
Openly selling marijuana
Martineau has been open about the fact her store sells marijuana products to anyone over the age of 19, whether or not they have a permit to buy medical marijuana.
Though legalization appears to be on its way, it remains illegal to possess or sell pot in Canada. Federal regulations also prohibit the sale of medical marijuana through a retail storefront.
Last week, municipal spokesman Breton Murphy said the city denied Auntie's occupancy permit application because of the sale of medical marijuana.
He said while drug enforcement is a matter for the police, selling marijuana through storefronts is illegal and against municipal bylaws. The city issued a notice to Auntie's to come into compliance.
Trudeau pledged to change pot laws
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced plans last April to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana in spring 2017.
Last month, a federal task force report recommended sales should be restricted to those 18 and over, and that marijuana should be sold in storefront locations.
However the chair of the task force, Anne McLellan, warned that it could take a long time before the legislation becomes a reality.
"Going from something that has been prohibited for decades, to a world where it's a legalized product, sold in a regulated market — so the transition is going to be enormous," she said.
Martineau's shop was shut down in a police raid Friday, but reopened the following day. She said the store is currently being run by volunteers.
"I'm here for the patients and not quitting anytime soon," said Martineau, 66.
She said police took a few thousand dollars worth of marijuana products from her store and seized eight marijuana plants from her home Friday.
'I don't want to go to jail'
Martineau said she was released five hours after her arrest.
"It's a fight between me and them. They have a job and I respect that," she said.
"I don't want to go to jail. I don't want to sit in prison for months, but I have to be there for the patients."
Her original hope for the shop was to use profit from recreational users to offer products to medicinal users for free.
Her next scheduled court appearance is Feb. 7.