Ontario man fined for working in an illicit cannabis dispensary says he was not aware the store was unlicensed

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Just as some Canadians have had difficulty sorting legal cannabis suppliers from illicit ones, a retail worker in Barrie says he was unaware that his former employer, an illicit dispensary, was not above-board.

Orillia Matters reports that defence lawyer Ariyan Zaraineh told the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie last week that his client, Matthew Richer, was “not aware of the situation.”

According to a news release from Barrie Police Service, Richer was arrested and charged during a raid at the dispensary on July 31, 2019.

Nearly $25,00o in cannabis and cannabis-related products were seized by the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team, as well as $4,333 in currency and electronics “related to the illegal business,” the release states.

Both Richer and Richard Barry Hewson were charged in the raid with possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling, selling cannabis, and possession of proceeds of crime under $5000.

According to Orillia Matters, the charges against Hewson were withdrawn, while Richer was fined $1,500 after he pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling.

Since Canada legalized cannabis, consumers continue to be confused about which operations are legal and which are not, both with brick and mortar stores and online sales.

“They walked away with $440 of my money. Every time I try to contact them, they just ignore me,” a customer posted in a review of online retailer Canadian Hemp Co. on the Better Business Burea (BBB) page last year.

BBB investigation into the business revealed that it was unlicensed and that the B.C. address listed on their website belonged to another business, a salon. The site was also encouraged payments in Bitcoin.

A post from the Ontario Cannabis Store notes that they are the only legal online retailer of cannabis in the province, though a Google search is likely to return a list of illicit options, as well.

According to the post, the biggest reason to buy legal cannabis is “quality assurance.”

“All of our products and the places they’re grown and processed go through strict testing and cleanliness checks to ensure your cannabis is free of unapproved pesticides and harmful bacteria like E. coli, and contains the amount of THC it claims to,” the post states.

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