Crackdown on city’s pot dispensaries has begun
Paul Johnston, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016 5:43PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 18, 2016 10:27PM EDT
A crackdown aimed at weeding out the recent proliferation of pot shops that have cropped up around town started today, according to a Toronto police representative.
Police spokesperson Mark Pugash has confirmed to CTV News Toronto that notices were hand delivered across the city Wednesday.
The notices, which were given to property owners rather than the dispensary tenants, advised that “unlawful activity” is taking place on the premises which is “affecting the health, safety and security of the community.”
The notice, which was obtained by CTV News Toronto Wednesday night, further advised that police would continue to monitor the property and take action if necessary.
Pugash would not elaborate on what type of action this might be, though he did say that police were working alongside the federal Crown and city bylaw enforcement officers.
The city will also be distributing its own notices, he said.
Confirmation of the action comes just days after Toronto’s mayor likened the appearance of dispensaries – particularly in heavy concentrations in some city neighbourhoods – to a crisis.
“This can’t continue on this basis,” Mayor John Tory told reporters last Monday, vowing to meet with police about the issue.
“One of the ways in which you can perhaps stop the spread of these and perhaps even curtail the number that are there now is by licensing (the dispensaries). “
Tory said such possible guidelines could include the number of dispensaries able to operate in the same area and their proximities to schools.
“I think these are the things that are of concern to people out there,” he said.
In an open letter Thursday to Tracey Cook, executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, Tory advised that he would ask the committee to support a “review of the current operations of marijuana dispensaries.”
He said he wants the report on regulations completed by the end of next month.
According to the website TO Dispensaries, there are currently about 100 dispensaries operating in the city. Only producers authorized by Health Canada, however, are legally allowed to sell marijuana in Canada. There are 18 of these licensed producers in Ontario.
Laws governing the existence of such dispensaries are still ambiguous as the federal government readies new legislation set to be unveiled next spring to legalize cannabis.
Liberal MP – and former Toronto police chief – Bill Blair has previously stated that existing laws relating to marijuana should be enforcement ahead of decriminalization.
“It’s very short-sighted,” Abi Roach, owner of the Hot Box Café, said of the move Wednesday night.
“Instead of taking an industry that is growing, and working with it, like an Uber, for example, and instead of working with it, and helping it along, and regulating, to just shut it down because of prohibitionist thoughts.”
Queens of Cannabis co-founder Brandi Zurborg said she didn’t agree with news of the crackdown.
“I just thought that’s not exactly the best stance for the city to take,” she said.
“It’s very confrontational, and in the face of patience. It’s not very friendly.”
- With files from CP24's Chris Fox.