Canada’s current marijuana legislation limbo has been having a big impact on Toronto. As the Toronto Police’s raid on marijuana dispensaries took place last week, the legal lines of marijuana—or lack thereof, are being argued and scrutinized over more than ever.
The Toronto Police raid on marijuana dispensaries across Toronto, known as Project Claudia, took place on Thursday with a press conference the following day.
What Was The Basis For The Crackdown?
In Friday’s press conference, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, stated that the raids were caused by significant community concerns from 50-70 complaints and petitions about marijuana storefronts that triggered an investigation with half of the dispensaries investigated being within 300 meters of schools.
In total, 43 search warrants were executed for unlawful store fronts for selling marijuana. Aware of the pending marijuana legislation, the Toronto Police took a measured approach to the raids. Warning letters were mailed out first on May 18th stating that the locations were engaged with illegal activities and in violation of zoning bylaws, and told to cease operations. Those that didn’t adhere to the warnings were charged.
Health Canada has published guidelines and legalities for marijuana sellers. They must be licensed by Health Canada, operating in industrial area, and distributing medical marijuana to prescribed patients via registered mail. While users can only legally obtain marijuana with a prescription, dispensaries often have very lax systems of distribution.
Neither do they follow testing regulations. Hence, quality control is also at issue. Marijuana edibles are a huge concern as there is no regulatory process on their manufacturing. As a result, there are unregulated amounts of THC levels in the products being sold and consumed.
It’s this lack of standardization that authorities feel pose a public health and safety risk, which triggered the execution of the search warrants on Thursday.
How Solid Is The Evidence Trail For Each Of The Cases?
During the press conference, Steve Watts, acting inspector with the Toronto Police’s drug unit, reported on the number of marijuana related products and merchandise seized. And from the confiscated products, there was ample evidence for Toronto police to lay charges.
Among the seizures were 269 kilos of dried cannabis, 30 kilos of Cannabis resin, 27 kilos of marijuana and THC pills and oils in capsule form. Marijuana edibles alone consisted of 343 kg of chocolate, cookies, and candies combined. Under $160, 000 in cash was confiscated. And 23 grams of powdered cocaine was seized at one dispensary.
In addition, charges on violating zoning bylaws and city licensing bylaws on the selling of foods were considerable. There were 79 bylaw violations in total. Of the 79 charges, 48 of them were for violating city zoning bylaws and 31 for violating bylaws for selling foods without a license.
What Will Happen To The Cases If The Law Changes While Its In Process?
As a result of the raid, 90 were people arrested, 186 controlled and drug substances act charges were laid (possession with purpose of trafficking), along with 71 criminal charges (proceeds charges related to the cash seized).
The dispensaries that weren’t raided are still running, but investigations are still going on and they could face similar penalties and fines. Dispensaries are still technically considered illegal under current law, though some may not know it.
Property owners will be charged for letting procedures continue under the violation of zoning bylaws. For individuals, the fine is at $25,000 and $50,000 for corporations. The first court appearances will be on June 15 (for those charged with bylaw violations) and July 7, 8 and 14 (for those who received criminal charges).
There’s a lot of anger from pro-marijuana supporters on the time and money that went into Project Claudia. Marijuana activists point out that, once legalization hits, cases can potentially be thrown out of court, ultimately resulting in wasted resources. However, Saunders stated on Friday that he feels the charges will stick.
If you’re a dispensary owner looking for legal advice on your rights, the next step is to find out where you stand. Call us today for a consultation. OMQ offers Toronto legal counsel on marijuana issues.