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Are charges against Londoners involved in pot-shop raids constitutional? One lawyer says no

FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, nugs of marijuana await packaging at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

After 17 Londoners and two property owners were charged in an OPP-led crackdown on illegal pot shops in the city, a cannabis lawyer is questioning whether the charges against them are constitutional.

“They have a defence that the law is not constitutional because it doesn’t provide for a constitutionally valid way for sick people to access their medicine,” said cannabis lawyer Jack Lloyd.

“I would recommend they go to court and argue. At its highest, the government’s case against these individuals is that they provided medicine to sick people.”

While he wouldn’t comment specifically on this case, Lloyd said it’s a major issue across Ontario since private retail sales of pot won’t be allowed in the province until April.

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“In general, the government has been reasonable with individuals charged with offences related to the cannabis plant for the last three years,” he said.

“I’m hoping that will continue, especially during this intervening period when these serious issues around access to medicine persist until the government finally authorizes people to attend a storefront and access cannabis.”

The OPP, along with London police, carried out the raids at illegal shops on Richmond Street and on Wonderland Road nearly two weeks ago.

Seventeen people were arrested without incident, and each has been charged with possession for the purpose of selling.

Nearly a week after those raids, police also laid charges against the property owners.

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Provincial police say they’re leading a strategy that includes other police services and aims to dismantle organized crime groups, eliminate the illegal cannabis supply, remove illegal cannabis enterprises, and target the proceeds of crime.

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— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel.

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