Marijuana dispensary reopens day after being shut down in Toronto police raids
Marijuana activist Marc Emery says he and other marijuana dispensary operators in Toronto will continue to defy authorities despite another crackdown by police that saw four more storefronts raided.
“I’m willing to go to jail and I will be selling marijuana today and all next week. We hope to stay open as long as possible,” Emery told reporters Friday morning outside a Cannabis Culture franchise in Toronto, one the locations targeted by police Thursday.
“Eventually the landlord or other agencies might intervene and force us out of business. But until then we’re going to keep trying and look for additional locations as well to open additional Cannabis Culture retail facilities because people want it.”
Police said the raids resulted in 23 arrests and $289,538 worth of products were seized including cannabis, hashish and hash oil. An additional $29,538 of cash was also confiscated.
“We’re going to continue. If you have dispensaries and they are open, your chances of going to court and being charged and being convicted are very high,” Chief Mark Saunders said on Thursday.
“So I strongly recommend that you stop selling marijuana in dispensaries right now because they are all unlawful.”
WATCH: Marc Emery compares raids on cannabis dispensaries to 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto
The police operation comes as the federal Liberal government continues to further its efforts on marijuana legalization in Canada.
“[These are] changing times and the laws are changing as well. We completely understand that and in fact we furthermore want to say that this is not against the consumption or the personal possession of. You’ll see that none of our charges were for any of that,” said Const. Victor Kwong.
“What we are saying is that you would expect police or someone to do something if, for example, a store popped up and they started selling you food that was unregulated from an unknown source to just anyone walking in.
“If the liquor store sold liquor that was from an unknown source to anyone who walked in, I’m sure people would be asking us to do something about that.”
Kwong said the four dispensaries were given warnings before the raids took place but the owners did not comply, adding that the investigation was prompted by public complaints.
He also said police understand the position dispensaries such as Cannabis Culture have taken by reopening their stores, but said it is “very possible” more raids could happen.
Emery claims the new legislation will put in place a distribution network that would be unfair to dispensary operators and consumers.
WATCH: Toronto Police Chief: I highly recommend you stop selling marijuana in dispensaries
“What we’re looking for is not the government to take over our industry but to legalize what we’re already doing. That’s what the voters wanted, that’s what we want,” said Emery.
“I believe the City of Toronto can handle easily 1,000 dispensaries and retail outlets and that in a free market we would have that.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has suggested that the province’s regulated liquor stores would be a good place to sell it.
Until marijuana laws become amended, Emery’s wife Jodie told Global News she wants an immediate halt to the raids being conducted in Toronto.
“The Liberal government of Canada is responsible for these continued raids and arrests,” Emery said.
“The citizens should contact the Liberal government of Canada and tell them to immediately stop arresting people.”
Emery, who takes in a profit from a dispensary franchisee that was raided on Thursday, said she received a letter from police on Wednesday saying they were aware of cannabis being sold at the establishment and an investigation is underway.
“But I did not expect police officers to show up and handcuff our peaceful employees and take them away in a van while depriving people of the ability to access cannabis,” she said.
The raids come a month after police, accompanied by city municipal licensing and standards officials, carried out search warrants at 43 locations and arrested 90 people, including shop owners and employees.
A coalition of marijuana dispensaries have said the raids on the pot shops in May were a “major mistake” and have called for charges to be dropped against those arrested.
With files from Mark Carcasole and The Canadian Press
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