Local dispensary owners allege rise in violent robberies at pot shops

Police are investigating an armed robbery at a marijuana dispensary on George Street in Hess Village that happened late Friday night.

Marijuana advocate encouraging owners to call 911 after robberies

Police released an image from surveillance video of two suspects they say robbed a marijuana dispensary on Friday night. (Hamilton Police Service)

A local marijuana dispensary advocate is calling for dispensary owners and employees to call 911 after robberies, after armed men stormed into a dispensary in Hess Village Friday night.

The move comes during Hamilton police's ongoing efforts to clamp down on marijuana dispensaries, which could leave workers with trepidations about calling the cops.

According to police, an employee was working at the Blue Ox dispensary on George Street around 11:30 p.m. Friday when two masked men ran into the storefront armed with weapons.

No amount of product is worth someone's life.- Britney Guerra, dispensary advocate

The employee was assaulted, and two suspects grabbed cash and merchandise before they ran out and were last seen crossing George Street, police said.

Investigators don't believe there's a threat to public safety, and say they believe the incident was targeted "due to the nature of the business."

Onetime dispensary owner and current "dispensary advocate" Britney Guerra alleged in a statement that robberies are increasing at local dispensaries.

The statement says that multiple dispensaries have been targeted in the last year.

"While there it is no guarantee that cops won't seize product, it is much more important to get these violent criminals off the streets," she said. "If you fail to call 911, this is will continue, and someone may get seriously hurt or killed. No amount of product is worth someone's life." 

Hamilton police did not provide any statistics about dispensary robberies when asked on Tuesday. Const. Lorraine Edwards told CBC News that no one was available to speak about the issue until tomorrow.

Late last year, Hamilton's city council even urged police clamp down on dispensaries.

Marijuana possession will be legal in Canada by July, but police say until then, they'll enforce existing laws.

"The Hamilton Police Service will continue to investigate all allegations of criminal activity, including the sale and trafficking of marihuana from dispensaries," police said in a media release earlier this week.

In Ontario, the LCBO will distribute legal marijuana through government-regulated stores. Hamilton and Brantford are among the first communities to get stores. The LCBO says it's still scouting locations.

Some marijuana and dispensary advocates question whether one Hamilton store will be enough to meet demand.