Hamilton police bust another medical marijuana dispensary

The city has been looking for ways to regulate the rogue businesses, which aren't legal - yet.

City has been looking for ways to regulate the rogue businesses, which aren't legal - yet

Police executed a search warrant on The Medicine Cabinet dispensary - the sixth dispensary raid in recent months. (Associated Press)

Hamilton police have charged the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary on Barton Street East.

Until legislation changes, we are going to continue to investigate every single one.- Det. Sgt. Frank Mossuto

The vice and drug unit used a search warrant to enter The Medicine Cabinet, a dispensary at 1050 Barton St. E. It happened just before 3 p.m. on Feb. 3.

The owner was "selling or giving marijuana or marijuana derivatives to clients," police say. Officers seized about $20,000 worth of marijuana and marijuana derivative products, including edible THC-based products.

Police also executed a search warrant for the Cloud Nine head shop and lounge at 1048 Barton St. E., but no charges were laid.

This is just the latest move in the city's attempt to get a handle on marijuana dispensaries.

City officials say it's a policing issue, but have formed a task force that includes bylaw, licensing and health staff to figure out how to regulate the businesses. Police say there are at least 15 dispensaries around the city — and that number is growing.

The federal government has committed to legalizing marijuana, but it hasn't happened yet. Until then, police say, they follow the law and charge people who sell marijuana.

"They're all illegal," said Det. Sgt. Frank Mossuto. "We're investigating all of them. Until legislation changes, we are going to continue to investigate every single one."

So far, Mossuto said, police have executed warrants on six dispensaries and laid multiple charges. Before this, the most recent was Royal Farmacy at 1395 Main St. E., where identical charges were laid.

Each investigation takes time, he said, because each search requires getting judicial authority. Finding them isn't hard.

'We're just trying to investigate as many of these as we can'

"We can use Google maps. We can do an interest search. We can track people on their Twitter accounts," he said. "We're just trying to investigate as many of these as we can."

When police use a search warrant on a medical marijuana dispensary, he said, they can potentially charge people in the dispensary who are in possession of pot. "If they have marijuana on them, we check for (medical marijuana) licenses," he said.

As for the dispensaries, Clint Younge, CEO of MMJ Canada, said in the fall that he hired a lawyer to fight charges related to the raid on his Hess Village dispensary. Younge maintained that prosecuting him was a waste of resources.

"Why there's such an aggressive approach in Ontario, I do not understand," he told CBC Hamilton.

In the Medicine Cabinet case, police have charged a 29-year-old woman who owns and operates the business with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, possession of THC for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of proceeds under $5,000. She'll appear in court in March.

In January, CBC interviewed Britney Guerra, who identified herself as the owner of the Medicine Cabinet. Guerra said she supports the city licensing marijuana dispensaries. 

"We want to adjust to make everybody happy," she said. "We want to be here and help the neighbourhood. I'd love to stay and be regulated."