A drug bust at Richmond and Dundas streets, a downtown London intersection with a notorious reputation for crime, is rarely a head-turner.
The shocker this time?
One of two men charged with drug trafficking in a recent bust there is 88 years old.
Then, there’s the small amount of marijuana that was seized, 16 grams.
Social media chatter lit up, and critics pounced, after London police Thursday announced the trafficking charges against the two men, the octogenarian and a 60year old.
Critics questioned the charges, given the age of the oldest man and the small amount of pot.
“This is a waste of police resources and time. You’ve got bigger fish to fry,” said Eric Shepperd, an organizer of London’s 420 demonstration, an annual event celebrating cannabis culture and pushing for the drug’s legalization.
Don Crawford, president of the Middlesex Law Association, said he sees first-hand how pot charges clog an already overburdened court system.
“I think the courts have better things to do than worry about than somebody who’s got 16 grams of pot,” the London lawyer said, adding he’s never heard of someone in their late eighties charged with a marijuana offence in his 47-year legal career.
Since the federal Liberal government tabled legislation in the spring to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use — a move expected to take effect next July — critics have decried police for continuing to lay pot charges.
The two London men were arrested Tuesday around noon after a drug-trafficking probe downtown, police said.
Investigators seized 16g of pot — enough to roll about 40 medium-sized joints — and $605 in cash.
The two accused are to appear in court Sept.1.
The 88-year-old, who uses a walker, is a fixture at Dundas and Richmond, say people who hang out at the corner. He couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Const. Sandasha Bough defended the charges, saying drug trafficking will remain a criminal offence after pot is legalized.
But Shepperd blasted police for targeting cannabis, while other more dangerous drugs, such as opioids, wreak havoc on communities.
“We’re going to look back on this time with total shame at the kind laws we’re enforcing,” Shepperd said. “It’s effectively harassment. It’s the police making work for themselves to justify their own existence.”
London police have a history of taking a hard line against marijuana. Until two years ago, the force was one of the few in Canada to crack down on pro-pot activists at 420 demonstration, arresting and charging anyone who lit up at Victoria Park.
That changed with the 2015 election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made a campaign vow to legalize recreational pot use.
Since then, London police have stayed out of Victoria Park while 420 demonstrators gather and openly smoke pot in the annual gatherings.
Despite the looming cannabis law changes, the picture of how legalized marijuana will look remains hazy across Canada.
Under Ottawa’s proposal, provinces would decide how pot is sold and distributed. Adults could possess as much as 30g of cannabis. They could either buy it from a provincially approved retailer or grow as many as four pot plants each.
Canadian premiers met this week in Edmonton, where they asked Ottawa for more clarity as they work to create rules for legalizing marijuana.
The premiers said they may ask Ottawa to delay legalization if it doesn’t help resolve issues around distribution, impaired driving, taxation, justice and public education.
Social media reaction
“It doesn’t upset me — it’s just a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. It’s almost legalized, time to focus on something more beneficial.”
“Trafficking is trafficking, no matter how old the perps are and no matter what they are trafficking ... it’s illegal. I do, however, wonder why more isn’t done about all the needle users and their mess.”
— Judy Pyke
“(London police have) nothing better to do. Way too many cops and way overpaid. There’s proof.”
— Mike Pollock
“The police are doing their job. They don’t decide the law — they enforce it. The man is breaking the law whether 18 or 88.”
Read more news of London here.