Last month, police launched a bold new strategy in their struggle to shut down unlicensed cannabis retailers in Toronto. Instead of simply raiding these illicit storefronts, they decided to block entry to the stores using giant cement blocks. But one chain of unlicensed dispensaries hasn't let that stop them from selling their wares.
Last week, the illicit cannabis dispensary chain CAFE had four of their locations raided by the Toronto Police Service. The police then erected a number of giant concrete blocks in front of the doors and windows of the stores to prevent anyone from entering the premises. The staff at CAFE responded by moving several of the blocks out of the way the following day. Then police returned to put the blocks back in place.
That's when some CAFE staff decided to go around the cement barricades by selling cannabis outside one of the closed dispensaries in what police have called a "sidewalk sale." After receiving several complaints about the illicit cannabis sales, police took to Twitter to remind people that buying marijuana from unlicensed sellers was illegal.
However, many of the individuals who were lined up outside of CAFE to buy their cannabis felt the legal cannabis system in Ontario was letting consumers down.
"The government's rules are ridiculous," one young customer, who asked not to be named, told The Toronto Star. "The quality of the legal pot is crap and they charge way too much money for it."
Medical marijuana advocate Kevin Busch said the situation is much worse for patients in the province, who can only legally purchase their medicine online. Many patients can't afford to pay for legal medical marijuana, and even if they could, many can't afford to wait the two or three days it takes for online orders to be delivered. Instead of shutting down stores like CAFE, Busch said the government should be helping them transition into the legal system.
"It's absolutely abhorrent to me as a medical marijuana patient to find out that this is happening and that access to product is being blocked so badly by our government without any recompense whatsoever for us, the patients," Busch told Toronto Sun.
Eight individuals have since been arrested for involvement with the sidewalk sale, reported City News. All of them have since been released with conditions and will appear in court at a later date.
This development comes just a few weeks after the Toronto Police Service announced they had finally closed the majority of unlicensed pot shops in the city. Ontario has also announced they will begin licensing a second round of legal cannabis stores in August, which could help the legal industry in its struggle to displace the black market.