Karygiannis says pot shop raids were a waste of money
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, June 27, 2016 6:02AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 27, 2016 6:46PM EDT
Toronto city councillor Jim Karygiannis is slamming the Toronto Police Service for its decision to raid a number of pot dispensaries in the city, calling the move a waste of money.
Last month as part of an investigation dubbed ‘Project Claudia’ Toronto police raided 43 pot dispensaries around the city and arrested approximately 90 people. Just last week, search warrants were executed at another four Toronto dispensaries.
"I have a lot of respect for the chief and I like a lot of the ways he thinks, but on this, we do not see eye to eye,” Karygiannis told reporters at city hall Monday.
The Ward 39 councillor, who is a member of the municipal licensing and standards committee, said the amount of money the police service spent on the raids would have been “substantial.”
“…when you put the amount of police officers at $60 to $70 an hour, and the bylaw officers at $50 an hour -- that's quite a substantial amount. That was not money well spent," he added.
Karygiannis said the enforcement activity was a “knee-jerk reaction to a couple hundred emails.”
"We need to ask if the money we've spent on the Project Claudia (raids) is well spent. If we're going to respect our tax dollars, this is one of the things we need to ask ourselves."
Licensing and standards committee defers debate:
The comments were made as the city’s licensing and standards committee met Monday to discuss a staff report that reviews the status of pot shops in the city and looks at a possible regulatory framework.
In a letter sent to the committee last month, Mayor John Tory asked the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Tracey Cook to work with the chief medical officer of health and the Toronto Police Service to provide recommendations on how to deal with the growing number of pot dispensaries in the city.
Tory said the dispensaries have raised concerns in the neighbourhoods where they operate.
“We respect the federal government's decision to legalize possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Going forward, the city has a responsibility to ensure this emerging industry operates responsibly, without a negative impact on the health and safety of our residents and neighbourhoods,” the mayor’s letter read.
The federal government has vowed to introduce legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana by the spring and is expected to revise its Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR) law by August 24, 2016. The committee, awaiting more direction from Ottawa, asked the executive director report back by Oct. 25 to discuss the outcomes of the federal government’s revised regulations.
There are only 18 federally licensed medical marijuana producers in Ontario and only three of those producers are in Toronto.
The city says that the storefront marijuana dispensaries that have popped up across the city are violating federal laws and city bylaws.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who also sits on the committee, said the city has been given no direction from the province or from Ottawa on how to move forward with regulations.
"It’s a federal issue," he said Monday.
"Until someone makes a decision, I don’t think the municipality should be doing that."
Members of the public who attended the committee meeting today hoping to share their views on marijuana dispensaries were disappointed to learn that the item had been deferred until October.
"It is a failure of free speech. It is a failure of listening to your constituents," Kevin Hall, executive director of Chronic Pain Toronto, told CP24.
"As you’ve seen with Vancouver and Victoria, they have gone ahead with this consultation process, yet Toronto has not. So we hope that the city, Mayor Tory, will step up and listen to the voice of patients."
Tory says turning blind eye to dispensaries 'not acceptable':
Following a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne this morning, Mayor John Tory told reporters that simply doing nothing while the number of dispensaries continued to grow was "the one option that was not acceptable."
"We felt we had to take some action to investigate licensing, which is all that is going on. I sort of similarly asked the law enforcement officials if they could take a look at what they thought they should do, but obviously understanding that I have no control over that," Tory said.
Police Chief Mark Saunders has not yet publicly responded to Karygiannis' comments but last week, he reiterated his position on the dispensaries.
“It is illegal to sell marijuana unless you have a license given to you by Health Canada. I have never minced my words on this. I said the investigation would continue and this is the result of what I said,” Saunders said following a new round of pot shop raids last Thursday.
“If you have dispensaries and they are open then your chances of going to court and being charged and convicted are very high. I strongly recommend that you stop selling marijuana in dispensaries right now because they are all unlawful.”