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Marijuana activist Chris Enns says he's leaving the industry behind as charges dropped

Chris Enns is shown on Monday with two supporters at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC - image credit)
Chris Enns is shown on Monday with two supporters at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC - image credit)

A Halifax-area medical marijuana activist who faced repeated police scrutiny says he is leaving the cannabis industry behind, a move that comes as a federal prosecutor announced Monday he was withdrawing trafficking charges against him.

Chris Enns, 39, has agreed to forfeit nearly three kilograms of marijuana and more than $46,500 in cash seized by police following a November 2017 traffic stop that led to two charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possession of proceeds of crime.

Enns said he's looking to forge a new path in life, and has told the Crown prosecutor handling the case that he intends to close his dispensary, Farm Assists, on Gottingen Street in Halifax. He said he will perhaps study law at Dalhousie University.

"I think in more of a wholesome manner, withdrawing from the cannabis trade altogether, whether that's Farm Assists or whether that's any new endeavour outside of a regulatory framework, that is my commitment to the government of Canada," Enns said following a brief appearance in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

Although recreational marijuana was legalized in 2018, the storefront dispensary Enns has run is not allowed under provincial regulations that require cannabis be sold through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

The Canada Revenue Agency implemented and oversees the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.
The Canada Revenue Agency implemented and oversees the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

The Canada Revenue Agency has claimed Enns and a company he operates didn't report more than $2.5 million in sales. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Enns said he wants the forfeited money to go toward his debt with the Canada Revenue Agency, which is claiming he and his company didn't report more than $2.5 million worth of marijuana sales between 2012 and 2014.

The case put forward by tax officials is based on "nearly completely erroneous facts," he said. But he is willing to work with the federal government to resolve his tax issues in a way that both sides are content with, he said, and hopes the forfeited money will "go a long way" toward covering the bill.

Enns was at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement in Halifax a decade ago, arguing he was trying to help people with debilitating diseases and that laws restricting who could sell cannabis should be rolled back.

His dispensaries were raided by police several times. Enns faced charges, but in some cases they were dropped and in another he successfully argued his Charter rights were violated.

Halifax police officers questioned staff and customers at Farm Assists on Gottingen Street Friday.
Halifax police officers questioned staff and customers at Farm Assists on Gottingen Street Friday.

Halifax Regional Police are shown searching Farm Assists, located on Gottingen Street in Halifax, in 2015. (Jack Julian/CBC)

On Monday, federal prosecutor Len MacKay withdrew the 2017 charges in court, but did not explain what led him to that decision. He declined to comment outside the courtroom. A three-week jury trial was scheduled for later this year.

Enns said he is also "exploring a journey that is completely sober" and has given up using cannabis and other intoxicants during the month of January, and perhaps longer.

He said he doesn't face serious medical issues, and his use has been recreational. Being sober has "opened up a lot of doors in my mind, and perhaps in my life," he said.

"My energy is the highest it's ever been, the clarity in my mind is the sharpest it's ever been."

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