Several people were taken into custody on Thursday as London police executed five simultaneous search warrants at illegal marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The raids at Tasty Budd’s, Chronic Hub Social Club, Alternative Health, and at two Healing Health locations over the noon hour came as part of an investigation police initiated several weeks ago following complaints and concerns from the community, police said.
The number of people arrested has not been released, but charges are pending, said London Police Cst. Sandasha Bough.
“It is an ongoing investigation – it’s something that our guns and drugs section have been working on for a while,” said Bough, speaking to reporters outside of Tasty Budd’s on Wharncliffe Road South, less than an hour after the raids occurred.
The warrants, police say, were connected to the offence of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
“At each location, (police) are arresting individuals who are working at these premises, and they’re executing their search warrants, so they will be seizing multiple items in relation to these offences,” Bough said.
The busts come just days after Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and current parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, came to London to visit with police leadership and city officials to discuss a regulatory framework for legalizing marijuana in Canada. The Trudeau government has said it plans to table legislation this spring aimed at legalizing and regulating marijuana.
The timing of the raids and Blair’s visit on Tuesday was “purely coincidental,” Bough said, adding that police have been working on the warrants for around two weeks.
Tasty Budd’s, one of six locations across the country, was the scene of a police search warrant last August that resulted in charges against two men, aged 23 and 28, of trafficking a schedule II substance and possessing a schedule II substance for the purpose of trafficking. The dispensary, which had opened less than a week before the bust, closed temporarily, but reopened soon afterwards.
One of the other dispensaries targeted in Thursday’s raid, Chronic Hub Social Club, opened just last month in the downtown core – the first to open in the area.
Asked whether police were planning to raid any other dispensaries, Bough said she couldn’t comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Under current Health Canada regulations, Canadians can only legally purchase medical marijuana from authorized and licenced sellers, with illegal dispensaries subject to law enforcement action. As of March 2, 2017, there are a total of 39 authorized producers and/or sellers of medical marijuana across Canada, with 24 located in Ontario.
Regulations that came into effect on Aug. 24, 2016 allows Canadians who have been authorized by their health care practitioner to register to grow their own marijuana or designate someone to produce it for them. According to Health Canada, as of August 2016, some 28,000 Canadians are authorized to possess and licensed to produce marijuana for medical purposes under court injunctions.
Bough said members of the London Police guns and drugs section and officials from the city’s bylaw office and the Middlesex-London Health Unit were assisting in the ongoing investigation.
“If the health unit does attend any of these locations, it will be in regards to the items that are edible,” Bough said, adding that the illegal marijuana products supplied by the unauthorized dispensaries could be potentially dangerous and “not safe for human consumption.”
Updates on the investigation will likely be released tomorrow, Bough said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact London Police at 519-661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).