MMJ Canada was shut down by Nelson police in March 2018. Five employees were arrested at the time, but will not be charged. File photo

Nelson police chief: Charges dropped against MMJ cannabis employees for lack of public interest

Chief Paul Burkart says federal prosecutors had no problems with the department’s investigation

Police Chief Paul Burkart says federal prosecutors have scrapped recommended charges against Nelson cannabis dispensary employees for a lack of public interest in pursuing the case.

Nelson police arrested five employees of MMJ Canada’s Nelson location on March 20, 2018. But on July 25 the Public Prosecutors Service of Canada (PPSC) said it would not approve charges against the employees.

The PPSC handles the prosecution of federal offenses such as organized crime, drugs and money laundering,

Burkart said in a statement Friday that the department was advised by Crown counsel that despite the decision it had no issues with the investigation.

“Our investigation into the MMJ and their staff included public complaints about the business, drug purchases done by undercover police officers, and the information which resulted from our search warrant,” said Burkart.

“Our investigation showed that MMJ was operating well outside what we expected from our dispensaries, and well outside what we felt would be acceptable to our courts and the case law that the judges created around the dispensaries.”

Burkart said five employees were arrested at the time of the raid, but a sixth person was also later arrested. He also said trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking were the recommended charges.

It’s also not clear if the federal legalization of cannabis nearly seven months after the arrests on Oct. 17, 2018 was a factor in the Crown’s decision.

A spokesperson for the PPSC previously declined to comment on the specifics of the decision and instead referred a Star reporter to section 2.3 of its guidelines titled “Decision to Prosecute,” which states:

“When deciding whether to initiate and conduct a prosecution on behalf of the federal Crown, Crown counsel must consider two issues:

“Is there is a reasonable prospect of conviction based on evidence that is likely to be available at trial? If there is, would a prosecution best serve the public interest?

“If the answer to either question is no, the test is not met, and the prosecution should not proceed. If charges have been laid, the charges should be withdrawn or a stay of proceedings entered.”

MMJ Canada’s location at 752 Vernon St. has been closed since the arrests.

“We are satisfied that MMJ has closed their operations in Nelson, as we do not believe that their business and their business practice was a good fit for our community,” said Burkart.

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