Edmonton man charged for selling illegal cannabis products from retail shop
'A regulated market is a safer market'
An Edmonton man faces charges for allegedly selling cannabis from an unlicensed retail store in west Edmonton, and police say the bust may be the first of many.
The accused, 65, has been charged under the federal Cannabis Act with unauthorized possession of cannabis, unauthorized sale of cannabis and possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling it, Edmonton police said Friday in a news release.
In late 2018, officers received information that led to an investigation of the business near 150th Street and 118th Avenue.
Officers searched the store Wednesday and found illegal cannabis products including seeds, oils, pills and creams, police said. Officers also found cannabis-infused water and deodorant. Police estimate the seized products were worth about $12,000.
Regulated market safer, police say
"This is a storefront that was licensed as a completely different business category, that he was operating as a cannabis dispensary," Const. Dexx Williams said.
"Part of our focus with the legalization of cannabis is to ensure that it is being distributed legally. A regulated market is a safer market."
Police are aware of at least a dozen illegal retailers and dispensaries operating in the city, Williams said.
"Whether you are a pet shop or a massage therapist or a vitamin store, there are numerous business categories that are currently selling products that have cannabis in them. And the employees and the owners are currently at jeopardy of being charged," Williams said.
"If you have products that contain cannabis, get the proper licence or stop distributing and selling them ... it's vital that the public understands the magnitude of the consequences."
Several tips each week
Williams said police have been fielding three to five tips each week about illegal operations within Edmonton.
Police have received reports on retailers at farmer's markets and trade shows. Home-based businesses in residential neighbourhoods and delivery drivers using apps to connect with customers have also been on the radar.
Sometimes the products themselves are the concern.
Officers have encountered tobacco cartridges and over-the-counter cough medicine laced with cannabis, and vaping cartridges that have been tainted with lead.
"We have had conversations with some of these businesses to advise them of what they need to do properly," Williams said.
"It wasn't a matter of Oct. 17 hit, start making arrests. We were trying to get education and awareness out there but we're now in March 2019. That process is done."
While tips have been flooding in, it has taken time for police to react as they adjust to a new enforcement regime, Williams said.
More government resources
"We have been receiving numerous reports from the public since legalization rolled out in October but due to limited resources at that time, most of what we have been doing has been more focused on education and awareness campaigns," Williams said.
"But due to support from city council and the federal government, we have received more funding, and as a result we are now following up on the numerous tips we received from the public as it relates to illegal practices."
Millions of dollars in federal and provincial funds have been allocated to help municipalities with policing. The government of Alberta committed $11.2 million for all municipalities with populations of more than 5,000 people, which translates to $1.1 million a year for Edmonton.
In the five months since legalization, those funds are translating to new policing resources and criminal charges, Williams said.
"I don't think anybody is naive enough to think that this arrest is going to make a dent in the illegal sales of cannabis. However, for the family of this owner and the owner himself [who is] now facing up to 14 years in prison, it has made a significant impact on his life."