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Toronto Police Raid More Than 40 Marijuana Dispensaries

Carlos Osorio/Getty Images

At a time when the Canadian government is moving toward progressive policies to bring down prohibition across the entire scope of the northern nation, police in the Toronto area have unleashed a savage attack against medical marijuana dispensaries all over the city for allegedly selling weed outside the boundaries of the law.

According to several reports from the Canadian media, law enforcement in the city of Toronto began executing search warrants on Thursday against some 45 dispensaries suspected of selling marijuana to customers for recreational use. Several people, including shop employees, have been arrested and many of the dispensaries have been shutdown.

Constable Craig Brister, a spokesperson for the Toronto police, said the raids were carried out in conjunction with the city’s bylaw authority against “locations that are identified as trafficking in marijuana outside the marijuana for medical purposes regulations.” All of the dispensaries targeted during the sweep, which has been labeled “Project Claudia,” for no apparent reason, were in stores owned by landlords who received warning letters last week suggesting the businesses were in violation of zoning laws.

Toronto’s zoning code allows the distribution of marijuana that was produced by a cultivation facility licensed by Health Canada. Any dispensary selling marijuana obtained from a grower that is not licensed by the government is technically in violation of the zoning bylaws, according to Tammy Robinson, a spokesperson for the city.

The raids come just two weeks after Toronto Mayor John Tory pledged to crack down on the sudden explosion of “bogus” pot dispensaries that have emerged within recent months due to a promise made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that marijuana would soon be legal across the nation.

City officials say the raids should come as no surprise because they have spent the past few weeks warning managers and property owners that they needed to shut down right away to avoid trouble with the law.

However, legal experts say Toronto officials have opened up a rotten can of litigation that will ultimately cost the taxpayers a substantial amount of money to cover all the legal bills that are destined to pile up as a result of this crackdown. At a press conference today at City Hall, Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver attorney, said the criminal charges stemming from the raids would likely face a tough road up against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He added that there would likely be a slew of constitutional cases to surface due to Toronto’s latest shakedown operation.

“To the extent that the zoning law is a prohibition based on the fact that it’s a dispensary, I say that that’s unconstitutional,” Tousaw said. “If you are in a retail zone, and you are operating a retail business, and the only problem is that it’s ‘illegal,’ pursuant to federal law, I say that federal law is unconstitutional and the Charter trumps. And that’s the end of the story.”

So far, Mayor Tory has refused to comment on the raids, but the city has confirmed that it is behind the investigation.

All of the information regarding arrests and the extent of the charges is expected to be released sometime Friday morning.

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