It might be time to build a few bridges instead of walls.
Toronto’s efforts to shut down illegal cannabis dispensaries last summer by placing giant concrete slabs in front of the doors reportedly cost the city more than $350,000.
Alex Burke, Toronto’s senior communications advisor, told the Toronto Star that the $361,459.49 bill included the cost of labour to install (and reinstall after they were removed) the concrete slabs, security costs and the engineering tab. The funds did not come from the city’s budget, Burke said.
“The city has received monies from the provincial government to support the establishment and implementation of an enforcement strategy for cannabis in the city of Toronto,” she said.
Toronto began cracking down on illegal dispensaries last summer, specifically targeting four Cannabis and Fine Edibles (CAFE) store locations by having Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) workers place large concrete blocks in front of store doors to prevent them from opening. CAFE proponents removed the blocks overnight and a spokesperson for the business at the time called the government’s response disproportionate and “embarrassing,” particularly in light of few alternative options for purchasing marijuana in the city.
“Torontonians cannot find reasonable dignified access to cannabis and cannabis derivative products, even though it has been made legal,” David Shuang said. “Tens of thousands of people rely on us for consistent reliable service each week for products and services that they cannot find elsewhere.”
City officials said at the time that they targeted CAFE because it believed they were repeat offenders who were making millions of dollars off of unregulated cannabis sales. Police repeatedly replaced the slabs before arresting a group of people, including a 16-year-old boy, a few weeks later.
While things have simmered since then, police are still engaged in efforts to shut down illegal dispensaries, Burke said, and executed warrants and laid new charges at three CAFE locations just last week. “MLS are still enforcing the (Cannabis Control Act),” she said. “All property owners and operators have been charged and are before the courts waiting disposition.”
Entry to the dispensaries was supposed to be barred by law enforcement following the raids, Burke said, but the stores were open and conducted business as usual soon after.
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Written by David Yasvinski