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Despite current laws, marijuana dispensaries popping up all over Toronto

Last Updated Apr 20, 2016 at 8:38 pm EDT

With the federal government set to begin the process of legalizing and regulating marijuana next spring, businesses that cater to cannabis are not waiting for the laws to change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned last year on a promise to legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana. Trudeau has said legalizing marijuana would fix a “failed system” and help remove the “criminal element” linked to the drug.

Even though they are currently illegal, marijuana stores have been popping up all across the city in anticipation of the change.

“I think there’s an element of trying to seize an opportunity here because municipalities aren’t sure what to do about it,” said Macleans magazine writer Michael Friscolanti. “The police are turning a blind eye unless there is a serious complaint of selling to minors.”

Dave Rusinek is the manager of BC Cannamed in the Beaches. He believes there are about 80 marijuana dispensaries in Toronto – 30 of them operating underground. Area residents have mixed views on the first store which opened in the neighbourhood this past month. Another is set to open across the street shortly.

Rusinek says police have stopped by to make sure they have proper security, but otherwise have left him alone.

“I’d say it’s a 50-50 split on people who are focusing on the medicinal versus the recreational,” he said of the various shops opening up.

Mayor John Tory acknowledges he is concerned about the sudden surge in these types of grow-ops.

“The one thing you can’t afford to have happen is a broad scale mockery made of the laws,” he said. “It’s doubtful to me that there are the number of people who are in genuine need of medical marijuana that would justify that many dispensaries opening up.”

A number of commercial real estate agents who spoke with CityNews say they have been getting a lot of inquiries from people looking to rent a store in order to open a marijuana pop-up. At this point, nothing seems to be stopping them from staking a claim to a new lucrative industry.

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