Governments making millions on illegal pot shops  Owners

Cannabis Culture owner Mark Emery (right), the city’s self-proclaimed Prince of Pot, and Weed the North owner Cory Stoneham, now jokingly referring to himself as the King of Cannabis, peruse the front-page story on marijuana dispensaries in Tuesday’s Toronto Sun. (Chris Doucette/Toronto Sun)

Governments have reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, licensing costs and other fees from just two illegal Toronto pot shops, say the dispensaries’ owners.

And they estimate federal, provincial and municipal governments have already collected millions from the rogue businesses across Canada while the country waits for marijuana to be officially legalized.

“My one Cannabis Culture on Church St. paid $434,000 in HST payments for the three months, from October to December, and $22,000 in payroll deductions,” the self-proclaimed Prince of Pot Mark Emery said Tuesday, disputing a recent Toronto Police claim that dispensaries are not paying taxes.

Emery claims that when he made his first HST payment to Canada Revenue Agency, he was informed as many as 100 pot dispensaries across the country have been paying their taxes.

A perpetual line of customers with cash in hand, filed through his smoke-filled shop on Church St. Tuesday afternoon. A private security guard, hired in the wake of the recent spike in pot shop heists, kept watch nearby.

Emery said business has been growing so rapidly since he started selling dispensary weed at the location last fall that the store’s 28 employees can barely keep up.

The booming location typically handles more than 1,500 customers a day, but last Friday the shop soared to a new high when 1,932 people stopped in to buy cannabis prior to the long weekend, he said.

“Sales from that one day alone amount to about $10,500 in HST for CRA,” Emery said, adding the shop’s HST total for 2017 could be close to $2 million by year’s end.

“That’s all new revenue that used to just end up on the street,” he said. “So the government is the biggest stakeholder in my business.”

Weed the North owner Cory Stoneham, who jokingly referred to himself as the King of Cannabis after appearing on the front of Tuesday’s Toronto Sun, said he faces similar dilemmas but on a smaller scale because he’s still growing his business.

The ongoing threat of police raids also go hand-in-hand with operating an illegal business, but Stoneham claims cops went too far when they raided his Eglinton West location for a second time last month — allegedly damaging his storefront sign, tearing the wrap plastered across the shop’s front windows and smashing open an ATM owned by a third party.

Police deny any wrongdoing.

Original article can be found here

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