Vape shop owners in St. Albert who originally faced charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking for selling a cannabis byproduct had most of their charges withdrawn in court on Monday.
Michael Sommerville, 65, pleaded guilty to careless storage of a firearm and possession of an unregistered restricted firearm that was found during the RCMP search warrant of the vape shop, at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton on Oct. 4.
Sommerville, who has no criminal record, was given an 18-month sentence, which will be served in the community.
All charges against Unice Smith were withdrawn.
According to the agreed statement of facts, on Sept. 12, 2018, St. Albert RCMP started investigating Big Mike’s Vapor Trails for trafficking cannabidiol (CBD) products. The shop had a large billboard in St. Albert advertising their cannabis products.
Undercover officers went to the shop to purchase cannabis products, and learned the shop didn't have a licence to sell the products.
On Sept. 26, 2018, RCMP searched the store and found around $10,000 in CBD products. There was a large gun safe in the back of the store on the main floor where officers found a loaded .22 pistol, a 12-gauge modified shotgun, and $2,655.
Sommerville had a licence to possess restricted firearms, but did not have a certificate for possession of the pistol.
The Crown and defence agreed to a joint submission, with an 18-month sentence to be served in the community. For the first nine months, Sommerville will be on house arrest; for the second half of the sentence he will be under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Exceptions to the house arrest and curfew include going to work or getting an education, going to a scheduled medical or dental appointment, going to the hospital for emergencies, and to shop for groceries once a week. Sommerville will also be able to vote and attend a religious service.
Defence lawyer Paul Moreau said Sommerville had no involvement in running the day-to-day operations of the store, as he is a gravel truck driver. Sommerville has an ownership stake in the store.
Moreau said the pair bought the CBD products from distributors in British Columbia and advertised with a big sign outside the store that they had the products for sale.
“All of this was mere weeks before the legalization so, had they been doing what they were doing a month later, there would have been no offence committed,” Moreau said.
“They were certainly under the belief that they were not committing any offences.”
A city inspector from the businesses licence department came to the store and Moreau said the store owners asked if they were allowed to be selling the product. The inspector told Sommerville he would research it and let him know.
RCMP originally charged the duo, along with store employee Tasha Smith, after Big Mike’s Vapor Trails spent months advertising online and on a large storefront sign that they had cannabidiol for sale.
At the time, CBD was listed within Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as a product illegal to possess without proper authorization.
Originally the trio each faced two counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000.
Sommerville originally faced three additional firearms-related offences.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette