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Black market crackdown: Police raid several marijuana dispensaries

Last Updated Oct 19, 2018 at 9:31 pm EDT

Toronto police raided several illegal marijuana dispensaries on Friday.

CityNews cameras captured police entering suspected dispensaries at 66 Fort York Blvd. and 19 Church St.

But police confirmed only the Fort York dispensary as one of five they targeted. The others were at 333 Spadina Ave., 912 Danforth Ave., 1506 Dundas St. W. and 2655 Lawrence Ave. E.

Eight people were charged and released on Part III Provincial Offenses Act summons.

Investigators, working cooperatively with the City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards, issued interim closure orders on all five locations.

“There were several people charged and released. We also worked cooperatively with the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards to issue interim closure orders on the locations,” Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said.

Marijuana prohibition came to an end across Canada on Wednesday, but it can only legally be sold in Ontario through the Ontario Cannabis Store website. Private legal dispensaries are poised to open after April according to Premier Doug Ford, whose government opened the door to a private model overseen by the LCBO.

More than half of the illegal marijuana dispensaries in Toronto closed up shop when legalization became official on Wednesday, but the city is still dealing with some that haven’t heeded the stern warnings from police and politicians.

The Licensing and Standards department told CityNews that 56 of 92 known dispensaries voluntarily closed on Wednesday, with 36 stores continuing to sell black market marijuana.

“We’ll be going after all of them,” said Tracey Cook, executive director Municipal Licensing and Standards.

“The Cannabis Act … allows for penalties for both the operators and the landlords. The landlords have a lot to lose. If they have illegal operations happening in their properties, they are subject to some severe fines. Now a lot of people may not understand the rules, so we’ve given them notice in writing … so they clearly understand the jeopardy they are putting their properties in.”

According to the Department of Justice, illegal distribution or sale of cannabis under the Cannabis Act carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

On Thursday, city inspectors began handing out notices to landlords and dispensary owners, informing them of the potential penalties under the Act.

“The letter was provided to put the landlords on notice of their responsibilities and potential penalties under the new Cannabis Act. We have not prescribed a timeline, as immediate compliance is expected,” the city said in an email.