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Toronto Dispensaries Remain Vulnerable, Though Most Have Now Reopened

It's been weeks since the widespread police crackdown on Toronto's dispensaries. By now, as the city grows lush in the midst of high summer, the shops have mostly all re-opened.

Just as before, one can wander into a dispensary in a number of the city's neighbourhoods and take their pick of indicas, sativas and edibles.

No change has occurred in the dispensaries' legal status, though. Police say they are all still illegal, and should expect to be shut down again at any time. There was one major raid of 43 different dispensaries at the end of May, and another much smaller one on June 24, and police say there could easily be more to come.

Ricardo Reyes is a detective constable with the Toronto Police Drug Squad, and he says as long as the government has yet to legalize weed, police will continue to enforce the laws currently on the books.

"All of these storefronts are illegal. Not one is legitimate," he says.

Right now, marijuana use is only legal in Canada for medicinal users getting their product from licensed Health Canada providers.

"There are procedures in place for people who need this for medicinal purposes. We're [sensitive] to the issue and compassionate to the people who need or have been prescribed medicinal marijuana."

For the time being, though, he said enforcement of these laws will have to be "very black and white."

Despite the threat of being shut down again, many dispensaries across the city reopened within a week of the raids. Dispensaries downtown, in Little Italy, St. Clair West, and on the Danforth are operating with impunity and with close to the same selection they had when raided by police.

Staff at WeeMedical on St. Clair West say they haven't heard from police since the raids in May, and that they don't expect that police will conduct more warrants in the near future, largely due to the cost.

Some dispensaries are remaining closed

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But some dispensary doors remain closed for the foreseeable future. Don Briere is a co-owner of Weeds Glass and Gifts, which originated in Vancouver. His Toronto locations opened for business last fall, but they've been closed since the raids in late May.

Police and city bylaw officials are enforcing the laws together, and Briere says the city intends to fine the landlords of pot shops that remain open. Right now, Weeds is in the process of negotiating with its landlords to reopen. If the landlords agree, and police go ahead and fine them, Weeds will agree to pay the fine.

"Personally, I'm disgusted with these people," he says, referring to police and government officials. "They're wasting our tax money."

At least one city councilor, Jim Karygiannis, agrees with him. Briere says the city should be ashamed of going after cannabis users when there are more serious crimes happening, and that when the city cracks down on dispensaries and they are forced to close, that just creates more revenue for organized crime.

In the meantime, dispensary owners (and some patients) looking for some peace of mind are going to have to wait until the fall: A meeting that was supposed to be held June 27 by the city's municipal licensing and standards committee to discuss the status of dispensaries was pushed back to October in the interest of waiting to see what the federal government has to say on the subject.

Banner image: Torontonians protesting police action taken against grey-market dispensaries in May of 2016. (rmnoa357 / 


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