90 arrests, 257 charges laid in Toronto marijuana dispensary raids
Toronto police say 90 people were arrested and 257 charges laid after authorities conducted raids targeting 43 marijuana dispensaries across the city on Thursday.
Chief Mark Saunders said search warrants were executed after letters were sent out to store fronts on May 18 advising them of city zoning bylaw violations and operating outside Canada’s medical marijuana regulations.
“If you don’t have a licence from Health Canada and you’re distributing marijuana it’s unlawful,” Saunders said during a press conference Friday morning.
Police seized 270 kilograms of dried marijuana, 30 kg of resin, 25 kg of hash, 27 kg of pills, 73 kg of chocolate, 142 kg of cookies, 129 kg of candies, 101 kg of bars, 135 e-cigarettes, 457 drinks, 127 kg of oils and spreads and 121 kg of other marijuana byproducts.
Police said 186 possession for the purpose of trafficking charges and 71 profiting from the proceeds of crime charges were laid against the 90 suspects.
Investigators also confiscated just under $160,000 of cash from the operation dubbed Project Claudia and 32 grams of powdered cocaine at one of the locations.
“It is a genuine health concern because there is no regulatory process behind this,” explained Saunders. “How much THC is in this one versus that one?”
Several marijuana activists who made their way inside the press conference chided and questioned the chief on the health safety claims.
“Where are the victims? Where’s the harm?,” shouted one person.
Mayor John Tory had promised a crackdown on the proliferating marijuana dispensary scene in the city.
A city spokesperson said 78 property owners out of a “known” 83 dispensaries had been given notices by the city Wednesday stating they were in violation of zoning bylaws.
Those found in violation could face charges and extensive fines if they continued to operate.
The Trudeau government has said it plans to introduce legislation next year that will legalize marijuana across the country, but until then it’s still considered an illegal substance for recreational purposes.
Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department has also issued letters to landlords of buildings where dispensaries were operating warning those running afoul of zoning bylaws that they must come into compliance by Saturday.
Saunders said the raid operation was not an attack on medical marijuana and that those with a prescription can still have access to the drug.
He further added the proximity of the dispensaries to schools and local residences was also a cause for alarm.
Dozens of dispensary owners and pot activists protested outside police headquarters where Saunders was holding a news conference.
Marc Emery — Canada’s self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot” who served five years in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds from Canada to American customers — was leading the protest, holding a sign that read “Dispensaries are indispensable.”
With files from Adam Miller, Peter Kim and The Canadian Press
WATCH: A quick look at both sides of the debate as cannabis activist Marc Emery disputes the most common complaints about marijuana.
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