Marijuana dispensaries in Toronto were raided by the dozens Thursday as police conducted a coordinated operation against establishments accused of illegally selling weed in Canada’s largest city.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters Friday that the crackdown, “Project Claudia,” resulted in law enforcement making 90 arrests at 43 unlicensed dispensaries across the greater Toronto area, the Toronto Star reported.
City officials earlier this month sent notice to 78 property owners informing them that they were violating zoning bylaws by leasing to medical dispensaries accused of selling pot products to non-patients. Although Canada’s newly elected Liberal government has vowed to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, weed for now is legal there only if its acquired through a doctor’s prescription.
City spokeswoman Tammy Robbinson told CBC that zoning bylaws allow only the distribution of medical marijuana from facilities that have been licensed by the government’s health agency.
Law enforcement filed a total of 186 charges stemming Thursday’s raids, including dozens of criminal counts for trafficking and possession, the Star reported. The owners of the establishments may also face fines of up to $50,000 each for zoning infractions, the Globe and Mail reported.
The dispensaries targeted this week were the same whose landlords were sent a warning letter on May 18, police spokesman Constable Craig Brister told CBC.
“This investigation has been going on for a while,” he said. “We’re looking at locations that are identified as trafficking in marijuana outside of the marijuana for medical purposes regulations. If people are legally using it, then they have nothing to worry about.”
Authorities seized 269 kilograms of dried marijuana during the raids, as well as 30 kilograms of hash, 142 kilograms of cookies and 129 kilograms of candies, the police chief said — or more than 1,200 pounds worth of pot products.
Marc Emery, a Canadian cannabis activist, called the raids “the most despicable mass arrests ever in this country,” the Toronto Star reported.