Toronto continues crackdown on illegal pot shops
Toronto bylaw enforcement officers are ramping up their efforts to smoke out remaining illegal pot shops across the city.
Armed with enhanced provincial powers under the new Cannabis Control Act, officers closed one location along Eglinton Ave. W. on Monday night before shifting attention to the Finch Ave. W. and Weston Rd. area, where a dispensary dubbed the Green Apple was closed Tuesday.
This week’s blitz comes on the heels of four stores being closed last week, as officers beef up their enforcement several weeks into a crackdown that started on March 1.
“We’re doing a number of these every week and we will continue,” said Mark Sraga, the director of investigation services for municipal licensing and standards.
There are roughly 27 illegal stores still operating in Toronto, down from an estimated 90 close to two years ago, city officials say.
“There were a few operators that continued to reopen after being closed,” Sraga said.
Mayor John Tory blasted people who are “consciously and deliberately” breaking the law. He said it’s a public safety issue and he hopes the courts bring down the hammer on such people.
“The law is very clear,” he said. “As of April 1, the people who are supposed to be selling marijuana are people who are licensed to do so.”
He said city staff have done a good job of lowering the number of illegal shops.
“It’s a very significant challenge, because as fast as they close them down they open up again,” he said.
The city has approved the hiring and training of up to six additional bylaw officers to close the remaining stores.
At the Green Apple, city bylaw enforcement officers seized a large quantity of dried cannabis, thousands of dollars in cash, a large quantity of edibles and other types of cannabis products, Sraga said.
Two people were charged and now face potentially stiff penalties up to a maximum fine of $250,000 and two years in jail.
Any corporation charged could face a minimum fine of $25,000 or a maximum penalty of up to $1 million.
“They could also face jail time,” he said.
“We will be charging the landlord,” Sraga added.
With new provincial rules taking effect the city opted to allow bylaw officers to spearhead the enforcement.
“It gives us more enforcement powers,” Sraga said of the Cannabis Control Act. “The bylaw officers received designation from the province. That then allows more effective use of police resources and ours.
“Instead of having six police officers doing enforcement, we can have two police officers and we can supplement that with our officers doing the bulk of the work.”
He said enforcement officers are taking a zero tolerance approach to landlords previously warned about illegal pot shops.
“We will charge the landlord, because they have been given an opportunity to stop the selling illegally,” he said. “Landlords should be checking and seeing what their tenants are up to.”
Ontario has issued 25 licences for retail pot stores, with five of those locations designated for Toronto, but only two have opened to date. The Hunny Pot, located on Queen St. W. and Ameri in Yorkville are the only two legally permitted dispensaries operating in the city.