Tag Archives: Dispensary Raids

Toronto police raid 4 marijuana dispensaries

Raids follow report of Ottawa’s intention to introduce marijuana legalization bill next month. 
By: Sammy Hudes, Staff Reporter. 

 Toronto police also raided Cannabis Culture locations across the country, including this location at 461 Church St., in Toronto, last Thursday. (JESSE WINTER / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO). 

Toronto police raided four marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, charging nine people with drug-related offences, just days after reports that Ottawa would introduce legislation next month to legalize pot by Canada Day 2018. 

Toronto police spokesperson Const. Victor Kwong said the raids weren’t meant to target average marijuana users. 

“I know that it seems like we’re just shutting down places for marijuana, but it’s no different than people would expect us to investigate a grocery store if they were selling things that were not tested to be safe for consumption,” Kwong said Wednesday. “It’s been a while now since we’ve charged anyone with simple possession, like, you know some guy walking around with a joint.” 

Rather, he said, police are responding in cases where the city has notified them about locations with more widespread issues. 

“It’s when we’ve been notified by the city that there are contraventions to the zoning and bylaws,” Kwong said. “It’s when undercover operations have shown that they don’t check for age, for any other type of medical need or credentials and when they’re selling things that have not passed any type of safety inspection. That’s when search warrants are applied for.” 

The raids occurred between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The first took place at Buds 4 Life on Broadview Ave. south of Gerrard St. E. Five people were charged with drug-related offences, and one also faces weapons charges. 

Police said they seized 1,146 grams of marijuana, 51 grams of “shatter,” a cannabis extract, 21 grams of hashish, two concealed steel expandable batons and $15,190. 

Cassandra Higgins, 26, Robertha Johnson, 25, Victoria Robbins, 23, Melanie Marshall-Lazou, 25, and Brennan Steinberg, 30, were each charged with possession of an illegal substance following the Buds 4 Life raid. 

They were also charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds obtained by crime. Steinberg was additionally charged with two counts of carrying a concealed weapon. 

At 6 p.m., police raided Canadian Green, at Bloor St. W. and Lansdowne Ave., and Village Cannabis Dispensary, on Church St. south of Maitland St. No arrests were made at either location. 

Police raided The Open Dispensary at 801 Queen St. W. at 8:20 p.m. and four people were charged with drug-related offences. 

“It’s crazy for so many reasons,” said Toronto lawyer and cannabis advocate Paul Lewin. He said it was “morally wrong” for police to carry out the raids as the federal government gets set to legalize marijuana and blamed the Liberals for not having an interim enforcement plan as it studies how to do so. 

“They’ve really created a complete mess for police and prosecutors throughout the country,” said Lewin. “This is at a time in which we have scarce judicial resources. Police budgets are tight, courts only have so much time, we only have so many judges and so many prosecutors and we’re going to waste court time with this?”  

Moments before police arrived at Village Cannabis Dispensary on Tuesday, patron Froses Berkovitch described the atmosphere as “very peaceful.” 

“There was music playing. There wasn’t any loud talking. Everybody was just mellow,” he said. “But as soon as that happened, everybody came out and people filled the street.” 

Several police officers were seen still inside the dispensary at about 7 p.m., while nearly a dozen people protested outside. 

Berkovitch said that as he was getting ready to leave, police showed up and told patrons that if they were not working there to leave immediately. Police then brought in a bucket to fill with marijuana and proceeded to raid the store, he said. 

Berkovitch streamed the event in real-time via Facebook Live and put out a call to action. 

Mark Harrison, a manager at the Village Cannabis Dispensary, said police took about 10 pounds of their product. 

The dispensary was formerly known as Cannabis Culture, and had already been raided this month. That brand was co-owned by prominent marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery, who were arrested on a number of drug-related charges March 8. 

The Emerys were granted bail with several conditions, such as being barred from going to any Cannabis Culture location or other dispensary, and from facilitating or participating in running any Cannabis Culture shop. 

Harrison said staff members purchased the store on Mar. 9 and changed the name following the Emerys’ arrests. 

With files from Hina Alam and Andrej Ivanov 

Original article can be found here

Pot shops: Tasty Budd’s owner among those charged by London police in last week’s raids

   Mal McMeekin, Tasty Budd’s franchise founder (Free Press file photo)

The owners of three London pot shops are among eight people charged in a crackdown on marijuana dispensaries. 

But a critic said he doubts the charges announced Friday by London police will hold up in court with Canada set to legalize the drug. 

Five men and three women face a combined 24 counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking following police searches of five marijuana dispensaries across London on March 2. 

Those charged include Mal McMeekin, 34, the Tasty Budd’s franchise founder; Kara Barber, 30, owner of Healing Health; and Charles Colvin, 28, chief executive of the Chronic Hub. 

Police have issued an arrest warrant for McMeekin, a Halifax native who travelled to London in August to open the Wharncliffe Road dispensary. 

McMeekin, who couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, wasn’t charged when police previously searched Tasty Budd’s in the summer. 

Authorities across the country stepped up their battle against dispensaries this week. 

Former Londoner Marc Emery and his wife, Jodie, were released on bail Friday after they were arrested Wednesday at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. 

Police across the country launched a series of co-ordinated searches Thursday of marijuana dispensaries linked to the Vancouver-based marijuana advocates. 

Police seized $250,000 in cash in several currencies after searching seven Cannabis Culture stores and several homes. 

Officers seized more than 65 kilograms of marijuana, 2.4 kg of cannabis extract and other drug paraphernalia. 

Authorities searched Cannabis Culture locations in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Vancouver. By Friday, most of the shops had reopened. 

Emery, 59, faces 15 charges, including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime, while Jodie Emery, 32, is charged with five similar counts. 

One leading lawyer for marijuana activists says the charges against people swept up in recent searches won’t stick in court. 

“They’ll most likely be dropped or stayed,” Vancouver-based lawyer Robert Laurie said. 

“If the court system is already overstrained . . . dealing with serious crimes, then I honestly think judges are going to be scratching their heads and saying, ‘Why is this in front of me?’ ” 

Dispensaries are illegal under a federal law that limits the sale of marijuana for medicinal use to a few dozen government-approved commercial producers. 

Hundreds of pot shops have sprouted in Canadian cities since the federal Liberals swept to power in 2015 with a vow to bring in legislation this spring to legalize recreational marijuana use and regulate its sale. 

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, now a Liberal MP, is the point man on the plan. 

Blair’s recent visit to London on Feb. 28 — just two days before the raids — prompted many to speculate that he delivered the Prime Minister’s message that municipalities should enforce the law when it comes to dispensaries to Chief John Pare. 

But police denied the crackdown had anything to do with Blair’s visit, saying the raids were a response to citizen complaints. 

So far, three of the raided London dispensaries have vowed to reopen. 

Dispensary client Cayla Cornell started a petition demanding city officials allow the shops to operate freely. 

Cornell, 26, said she’s already collected hundreds of signatures for the petition, which is available at the Chronic Hub on Dundas Street. 

The charged:

  • Perry Middaugh, 55, of Markstay
  • Emily Pavlech, 23, of London
  • Kara Barber, 30, of London
  • Fallon Altwasser, 26, of Kitchener
  • Mal McMeekin, 34, of no fixed address
  • Nathan Hall, 26, of London
  • Charles Colvin, 28, of London
  • Paisley Grey, 23, of London 

Original article can be found here

Project Gator is a crock

By: Andrew Fleming


There’s no shortage of ridiculousness regarding the recent Project Gator raids on Cannabis Culture shops across the country. 

There’s the fact that people were thrown in jail due to selling products that are supposedly going to become legal any day now. 

Or that the raids were organized by Toronto police, whose former chief is meant to be the person steering the path towards legalization. 

Or that Vancouver police, who had previously made the principled decision to leave dispensaries alone pending new laws, were evidently happy to do the bidding of their bigger city counterparts. 

Or that the value of LP stock shot up due to the perception this was a victory for Big Pot at the expense of the underground craft cannabis industry. 

Or that Ottawa cops are pretending they weren’t actually part of it and simply happened to raid a newly opened Cannabis Culture shop the same day by coincidence. 

But perhaps the most ridiculous thing about this whole fiasco is the name Project Gator itself. It’s easy to assume it was chosen because alligators are apex predators and some cop – probably the kind of guy who calls his biceps “pythons” – thought it sounded badass. 

Like the trenchcoat-wearing McGruff the Crime Dog, Project Gator would take a bite out of crime! 

But it’s worth keeping in mind the Toronto Police Service actually have a history of choosing names for their major investigations quite carefully. For people who regularly spell marijuana as “marihuana,” they have a surprisingly good way with words. 

For example, they named a major drug bust Project Bread Maker because it began at a Dempster Street location and Dempster is one of the country’s biggest bread brands. Project Decepticon was named after a Transformers robot who showed up on ecstasy tablets, and Project Marvel was inspired by suspects who used comic book characters for codenames. 

Typically the lead investigator is in charge of picking a handle, but they sometimes ask underlings to come up with suggestions. 

“Yes, sometimes [investigators] agonize over them,” Staff Inspector Randy Franks told the National Post in 2012. “I shouldn’t say we insist, but it’s been a standard that projects come along and they have names… These are serious investigations and if we add a little bit of lightheartedness, it isn’t intended to diminish the seriousness of the investigation.” 

So it’s hard not to wonder about how Project Gator got its name. Here are some possible, albeit unlikely explanations:

  • Alligators aren’t native to Canada, so perhaps this was a subtle dig about the time Canadian police busted Cannabis Culture founder Marc Emery at the DEA’s request for selling seeds through the mail and he ended up serving hard time at federal prisons in Georgia and Mississippi. States that both have alligators.
  • It’s a play on the expression “see ya later, alligator.” Which could work given how frequently Emery finds himself arrested on pot charges.
  • “Project Gator raid” sounds like Project Gatorade and even cops can appreciate a good pun.
  • Project X was already taken.
  • Project Croc would’ve reminded people of “crock” – a word meaning nonsense – and this would’ve been a bit too accurate for this vast waste of taxpayers’ money.
  • Alligators are green. So is weed. Creativity at the T.O cop shop could be slipping.

But I’d like to think someone simply misspelled the word “gaiter,” a garment worn over shoes to keep feet dry. Because Toronto police have just stepped into a river of shit when it comes to popular opinion and they’re probably going to need them. 

Original article can be found here