(Inside Magna Terra on Iber Road. File photo.)
The owner of the Magna Terra marijuana dispensary chain is among seven arrested and charged after police raids on his two Ottawa dispensaries and a private home on Tuesday.
The raids resulted in the seizure of a loaded .44 calibre Desert Eagle handgun, marijuana and other drugs, cash, documents and computers and cell phones, according to Ottawa Police.
Seven people, which included four dispensary employees, were charged with:
- Store firearm carelessly.
- Possess weapon dangerous to public peace.
- Possess restricted firearm without holding a license.
- Possess restricted firearm knowing not holding a license.
- Possess loaded regulated firearm.
- Possess firearm obtained by crime.
- Possess proceeds of crime under $5,000.
- Possess proceeds of property obtained by crime over $5,000.
- Possess schedule II substance for trafficking.
- Three counts of traffic schedule II substance.
Police raided the two Magna Terra dispensaries, one on Carling Avenue and the other on Iber Road in Stittsville. They also raided a house in Centrepointe. Police did not disclose at which location the gun was found.
Among those charged were Magna Terra owner Franco Vigile, 29, and Peter J. Vigile, 23, who also worked at the dispensaries. They were charged with six counts of drug trafficking charges and one count of possession of property proceeds of crime under $5,000, the Ottawa Citizen reported Wednesday.
The same report said that Nina Vigile, Franco’s sister, was charged with six firearms offenses and possession of property proceeds of crime under $5,000.
Marijuana can only legally be obtained from licensed sellers through the mail system and storefront dispensaries are illegal.
“We continue to advise the public that these store front operations are illegal and the laws will be enforced,” said Staff Sgt. Rick Carey of the Ottawa Police Service Drug Unit, in a news release. “Drugs and guns are continually being found in close proximity to each other and anyone thinking illegal drug trafficking from behind a store front counter is safer than on a street corner is fooling themselves.”
Still, Vigile continued expanding his Magna Terra business over the past few months and said that dispensaries fall under a grey area because of pending federal legislation that should legalize marijuana use.
Vigile opened the Stittsville location last summer to mixed reaction in the community. He also had plans to open a third store on Montreal Road.
“Just because it’s a brick and mortar building does not make it legal,” said Shad Qadri, the councillor for the area, in a November interview on StittsvilleCentral.ca. “I have no problem with a brick and mortar Tim Horton’s.”
Vigile, however, insisted his business was a legitimate source of marijuana for medical purposes and that they operated responsibly. He said nobody without a prescription would be sold the drug.
“We have adequate measures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Vigile said in a November interview. He had previously written an open letter to explain the measures, which require someone to present government ID before being buzzed into the building.
“We take our security seriously and our prescription review process seriously,” Vigile said.
Vigile was released on a $3,000 bail that allows him to return to his two dispensaries in order to close them.
(This article originally appeared on OttawaStart.com)