Saskatchewan

Best Buds' owner charged for allegedly continuing to sell cannabis after police raids

After opening his marijuana dispensary repeatedly in the face of Regina police warnings to illegal operators to close down, the owner of Best Buds Society has now been and charged.

Protest against pot raids in Regina planned

Best Buds Society owner Patrick Warnecke had been vocal about opening his storefront, despite police warnings to the city's marijuana dispensaries to close down illegal operations. Police have now issued a warrant for his arrest. (CBC News)

After opening his marijuana dispensary repeatedly in the face of Regina police warnings to close down, the owner of Best Buds Society has now been charged.

Patrick Warnecke was arrested Wednesday and charged with seven counts under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, including charges of trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, and possession of proceeds of crime under $5,000. 

Warnecke stood by his decision to continue reopening his dispensary. He said he was standing up for the rights of people who use marijuana for medical purposes. 

"It's all about rights — we don't have rights right now," he said. "Patients don't have access. And those rights have to be addressed."

​He appeared in court in Regina Thursday morning, according to a provincial court clerk. His next court appearance is set for April 12.

Three of Warnecke's employees have also been charged with drug trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime charges.

Protest planned

An event dubbed the Cannabis Patients Protest is being planned for Friday. The event's Facebook page states that police are taking away "safe access sites with zero contingency plan for patients."

Organizers say the demonstration will start at 4 p.m. outside of the Regina Police Service building.

Since January, Regina police chief Evan Bray had been issuing warnings saying owners and operators of marijuana dispensaries could face charges for selling cannabis before legalization came into effect. Regina police sent warning letters to owners and operators before conducting raids of six city dispensaries on March 28.

Evan Bray, Regina police chief, warned marijuana dispensaries repeatedly that they would face charges for operating before the formal legalization of marijuana. (CBC News)

Warnecke opened up again the next day, saying he wouldn't turn his back on "sick people and marginalized people" who depend on using cannabis to alleviate symptoms of their illnesses.

Along with the charges he now faces, Warnecke said he can not be near his store, or get in contact with his employees. While he will not be at Friday's protest, he said the event offers more evidence people are prepared to fight back for patients' rights.

"I guess the cause has been started, and people are picking up the cause," he said.