Toronto's Cannabis Activists Respond To The Latest Dispensary Raids

Nearly a month after the Toronto police launched Project Claudia - an operation that involved raiding 43 of the megacity's illegal cannabis dispensaries, arresting 90 people and laying 186 charges - law enforcers have taken another stab at eradicating Toronto's marijuana storefronts. On June 23, police raided two more dispensaries - Canna Clinic in Kensington Market and Cannabis Culture - a chain owned by Canada's famous pot activists Jodie and Marc Emery - on Queen Street West.

Police Chief Mark Saunders told the public that no one should be surprised by the police action given that he warned there would be more raids following Project Claudia.

"We're going to continue," he said during a press conference yesterday. "If you have dispensaries...your chances of going to court and being charged and being convicted are very high. So I strongly recommend that you stop selling marijuana in dispensaries right now because they're all unlawful."

He also took a shot at dispensary owners, alleging that they entered the illegal industry purely for the sake of profit.

"This investigation has nothing to do with personal use. This has everything to do with the people that are entering into this for the sole purpose of making money. They'll use [their business] under the guise of medical marijuana. It is a falsehood....It has nothing to do with medical marijuana. It's just about a matter of making money."

You can watch his full remarks below, followed by rebuttals from advocates and activists.

1. Vowing defiance

One day after the raid, Marc Emery re-opened Cannabis Culture and promised that he and other dispensary owners would continue defying the crackdown.

"Hundreds of thousands of Torontonians want to shop at these shops. And I think they're voting with their feet and their dollars," he said during a press conference. "And we intend to support them. And as long as we have true believers who are willing to go to jail for our cause - as I am - then we will continue to open and defy the punishment that the city of Toronto and the federal government is giving us...we are not going to back down easily."

You can hear his full remarks here:

2. Who is being harmed?

Immediately following the raid, Cannabis Culture posted a tweet simply asked the police if they can justify the raid by pointing to someone being harmed by their business.

3. The purpose of dispensaries

Cannabis Culture owner Jodie Emery responded to Chief Saunders' allegations that dispensaries are all about profiteering by releasing her company's mission statement.

4. Dispensaries aren't about profiteering

The Cannabis Friendly Business Association (CFBA) - a Toronto-based advocacy group - also took exception to Chief Saunders' claim that dispensaries are only interested in making money.

5. Leave dispensaries alone

Kirk Tousaw - an advocate and lawyer involved in cannabis cases - objected to Chief Saunders' claim that people visiting dispensaries are only interested in buying the most potent pot available. But most importantly, he wants the police to "stop harming the harmless" with these raids.

6. Marijuana monopoly taking root?

Jason Wilcox of the activist group and media outlet Cannabis in Canada was on the scene to report on the raids. He alleges that the crackdown is part of a conspiracy to uproot the dispensaries so that the medical marijuana producers licensed by Health Canada can monopolize the cannabis industry.

"They're going to continue to raid the dispensaries," Wilcox said. "Shutting down the dispensaries of old and ushering in the dispensaries of new. Basically allowing licensed producers to become the sole proprietor of the supply and distribution in...Canada. There's a monopoly going on in this country. And we as a people need to stop it."

7. Consumers remain defiant

But the crackdown might not make a dent in the black market since consumers like Bernie Fisher say that they can easily buy marijuana elsewhere.

8. Tarnishing the police's image

But Project Claudia and subsequent raids could have an effect on how people view the police - especially in Toronto where their public image is still reeling from the mass arrests during the G20 Summit in 2010.

h/t Toronto Star, CBC

Banner Image: Marc Scott Emery leading the protest against the Project Claudia dispensary raids and arrests, May 27. "Hundreds of thousands of Torontonians want to shop at these shops. And I think they're voting with their feet and their dollars," said Emery about why he thinks the most-recent raids are wrong-headed. /


Recently the World Health Organization recommended that countries around the world reschedule marijuana and remove it from international drug treaties. And now the European Parliament is doing the same. The European Parliament passed a new resolution calling on member states to increase access to medical marijuana and increasing research efforts into cannabis.

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