Several pot dispensaries across GTA raided by police; owners charged, items seized
Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Thursday, May 26, 2016 1:11PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 26, 2016 7:04PM EDT
Toronto police have officially started to crackdown on marijuana dispensaries through a series of search warrants executed across the GTA.
Police began raiding several dispensaries in the city this afternoon, including Weedmaps and Toronto Holistic Cannabinoids, both located in Kensington Market. According to the city, Municipal Standards officers have issued charges to the business owners for zoning by-law contraventions along with other municipal by-law charges.
Police have dubbed the investigation ‘Project Claudia.’
A news conference about the raids has been scheduled at police headquarters for 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
On May 18, police distributed notices to owners of properties where marijuana dispensaries were operating. The notices, police said, warned property owners that authorities were aware of “unlawful activity” occurring on the premises and that the business violated city zoning bylaws.
The notices stated that property owners risk forfeiture and charges if the activity did not cease.
As of Wednesday, the Municipal Licensing Standards office said it had issued 78 notices to property owners out of 83 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries known to be operating in the city.
The only dispensaries that are legal in the city of Toronto are ones that hold a special license.
Chris Cardozo, the owner of Toronto Holistic Cannabinoids, called the raids “absurd.”
“It is absurd especially since I am a prescription-only dispensary,” Cardozo told CP24 on Thursday afternoon. “I don’t understand how they are only targeting the ones that are doing it by prescription only.”
Cardozo said that he plans on taking legal action against the city following the raids.
“Me and a number of dispensary owners who have been running properly from the beginning when we opened our doors have been targeted and in this event, I am planning on bringing a lawsuit against the city because this is unfair and not right.”
The Eden Medicinal Society -- a dispensary located on Queen Street West near Niagara Street -- was one of the shops raided Thursday afternoon. Several people were seen hand cuffed inside the building as police executed a search warrant and seized property.
"It's not surprising at all," a neighbour near to Eden told CTV Toronto. "You're selling drugs out of a store, you're asking for it."
"I feel like this was a waste of time and not the right approach," Jamie Carlton, an employee at one of the dispensaries, said.
Meanwhile, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said otherwise.
"Enforcing the law and addressing issues of community safety and quality of life is never a waste of time," Saunders said in a tweet.
Mayor John Tory’s office would not comment on the raids Thursday.
But during an appearance on CP24 Wednesday night, Tory was frank about his disapproval of the dispensaries operating in the city, calling the pot shops “bogus.”
“They are conducting activities that are not within the law,” he said. “I just think we can’t have them popping up on every street corner and nearby schools and messing up the livelihood trying to be earned by small businesses.”
In April, the provincial government announced it would pursue legislation to legalize marijuana by 2017.
Police officers, meanwhile, have complained that the new prospect of marijuana legalization has muddled the current regulations for recreational marijuana and medical marijuana.