Joseph Morris

Toronto Dispensaries Shuttered Following ‘Operation Claudia’

Toronto police executed Operation Claudia yesterday, raiding more than 40 dispensaries in Ontario’s capitol city. The raids were followed today by protests in front of Toronto Police headquarters by activists who carried signs with slogans such as, “Patients deserve dignified access,” and “Stop busting the sick.”   

During a press conference by police regarding the raid, Mark Sraga, director of investigative services, said that the crackdown was due to the number of new dispensaries opening in the city in recent months and to ensure that no municipal bylaws were being broken.

In sum, Municipal Licensing and Standards officers handed down 79 charges. Forty-eight of those were for violations of the city’s zoning bylaw for using a property for a non-permitted use. Thirty-one charges were handed out for violating the city’s licensing bylaw for operating businesses in which foodstuffs were available for human consumption without the appropriate permits. Both charges carry fines of up to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation.   

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said his department executed 43 search warrants at “unlawful storefronts selling marijuana.” Police levied a total of 186 controlled substance charges as a result of their findings.

“The project has been going on for a number of weeks as a response to community concerns and complaints about public safety regarding the drastic increase of these storefronts,” Saunders said during the press conference. “Since March the number of storefronts have more than doubled.”

On May 18, Toronto Police issued letters to 43 locations, informing them that they were “engaging in unlawful activity” and that they would be criminally charged if they did not cease operations, Saunders said.

Steve Watts, acting inspector for the drug squad, said police arrested 90 people, confiscating more than 269 kilos of dried marijuana, more than 30 kilos of “cannabis resin,” more than 24 kilos of hash, more than 27 kilos of THC pills and a “massive amount” of edibles – including 71 kilos of chocolate, 142 kilos of cookies, 129 kilos of candy, 64 kilos of sodas and liquids, and 126 kilos of “other oils and spreads.” Law enforcement officers also seized about $160,000 in cash and 23 grams of cocaine.

“We are cognizant of the nature of the legislation in this matter and … that’s why we took a measure approach and we took a joint approach with the city,” Watts said during the presser. “…One of the issues here is the quality control… there is no proper measuring, there is no qualitative analysis. They are all differing from store to store, so that’s where we run into the health and safety implications.”     

Brandy Zorburg, Queens of Cannabis owner, said her landlord had received a cease and desist letter last week and she closed her shop to protect her patients. Her dispensary was not included in the sweep.

“If they arrest me, that’s all right, we’ll just go to court about it and if that’s where they want to take it, fine,” Zorburg said in an interview with the Toronto Sun.

Individuals arrested in the raids are due to appear in court on June 19.

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