Earlier this year, Toronto police inspected 78 locations across the city and sent letters for business to apply corrections. All owners and operators were warned that persisting violations would result in legal penalties.
On May 26th, 2016, at approximately at 12pm, police acted on these warnings and executed warrants at 43 storefronts. Approximately 90 people were arrested, 186 controlled drugs and substances charges were laid, as well as 71 criminal charges.
Since March, the number of unlicensed cannabis storefronts have more than doubled, and neighboring communities have increasingly submitted complaints to local authorities. Nearly half of the illegal dispensaries were within 300 meters of schools.
During a press conference this morning, Toronto police detailed the events of the raid as well as the types of charges laid and the cannabis products seized.
- 269 kilos of dried cannabis flowers
- 30 kilos of cannabis resin
- 24 kilos of hash
- 27 kilos of THC pills
- 72 kilos of infused chocolate
- 142 kilos of infused cookies
- 129 kilos of infused candies
- “Every flavor of Nutella you could want”
- 64 kilos of sodas and liquids
- 126 kill of other oils and spreads
- $160,000 in cash
- 23 grams of powder cocaine at one location
There was no standardization among these products, and product potency was not consistently quantified. Adults consuming products from these stores would have to trust the unlicensed business operators to label their products properly.
Also noted was the fact that unlicensed cannabis dispensaries do not have the same commitments to health concerns. Without any regulatory oversight and no threat of losing a license, the police allege that these businesses were operating loose, unlawful cannabis outlets.
As the Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders began to take questions from those attending the press conference, the tense emotional state of Toronto became quickly apparent.
The very first gentleman to speak out questioned whether the police had any real documentation as to the lack of quality control and consistency between the products.
He also lamented that fifty-five to seventy complaints from the community does not equal the thousands of people who will now have difficulty accessing cannabis with the closure of these stores.
The questioners began calling out: “Where are the victims? Where are the victims?” Eventually many disruptive questioners were asked to leave.
Legally, the only way a dispensary can lawfully operate is to receive a license from Health Canada. In order to receive a license, a dispensary would also have to abide by food handling and distribution regulations.
Police were adamant that the 43 dispensaries raided Thursday were also in violation of food laws, and knew that their operations were unlawful.
Thursday’s raids brought up many concerns about future patient access, and activist Marc Emery was already rallying in support of the 90 people arrested.