SQ raids 8 unauthorized cannabis stores across Quebec

With one week left before recreational cannabis is legal, the provincial police raided eight unauthorized dispensaries across Quebec Wednesday, arresting eight people for illegally possessing and trafficking marijuana and marijuana-derived products.

8 people arrested as police seize a range of dried cannabis and cannabis products

SQ raided this Fusey Street business in Trois-Rivières on Wednesday morning. (Radio-Canada)

With one week left before recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, Quebec provincial police raided eight unauthorized dispensaries Wednesday, arresting eight people for illegally possessing and trafficking marijuana and marijuana-derived products.

Three of the dispensaries were located in the greater Montreal region, three in central Quebec and two in the Mauricie region. While some claimed to be selling medical marijuana, others were advertising it for recreational use, as well.

The dispensaries are illegal "because they do not comply with the regulations respecting access to cannabis for medical purposes," said the Sûreté du Québec in a news release.

The SQ said the investigation was conducted by its organized crime division, in collaboration with its smuggling division and local police departments.

Police have been cracking down on unauthorized dispensaries for some time in Quebec as shops regularly open up and advertise their wares online, using social media and websites to promote products.

The SQ says people who want to obtain medicinal cannabis must continue to do so through one of the 120 authorized producers, and for recreational usage, Quebecers must shop at an outlet of the soon-to-be-open Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC).

SQ pledges to fight 'illegal' cannabis

The SQ is vowing to continue "its fight against the illegal production and sale of cannabis," reminding citizens that it recently launched a new task force aimed at snuffing out the "underground cannabis economy."

The new force is called ACCES Cannabis. (ACCES  stands for action concertée contre l'économie souterraine.)

"Police officers will step up their fight against cannabis smuggling at all stages of the supply chain, from illegal production to neighborhood smuggling, all across Quebec," said the police service.

Le 710 targeted by SQ in 4 separate raids

Cannabis Québec, a shop in Nicolet, Que., which made the news last month when it opened its doors to medicinal and recreational cannabis users, was among those raided Wednesday. 

Once inside, officers arrested a 48-year-old man who is expected to face charges related to possession for the purpose of drug trafficking. In all, 1.8 kilograms of dried cannabis was seized, along with 300 grams of hashish, according to Radio-Canada.

Four of the raided businesses operate under the name Le 710, in Saint-Jérôme, Valleyfield, Vaudreuil and Shawinigan.

In Shawinigan, a greenhouse was discovered above the raided shop.

This image, taken from Le 710 Shawinigan's Facebook page, shows the store's logo which is shared by other Le 710 locations, including one in Montreal. (Facebook)

The SQ seized dried cannabis, processed products and cannabis oil along with 30 plants, Radio-Canada reports.

Located on Saint-Marc Avenue, the store's last Facebook posts were in December 2017 — one refers to Le 710 Montreal, which operates on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal.

There is another 710 location listed in Laval.

THCity has operations in Montreal

In Trois-Rivières, police raided a shop where a 51-year-old man was arrested after investigators seized cannabis, cannabis oil, synthetic cannabis and hashish.

The logo "THCity" can be seen on the storefront.

An online search revealed there is a company with the same name and logo that operates two locations in Montreal with shops located on Jarry Street East in Saint-Léonard and on Park Avenue in Plateau-Mont-Royal.

The two THCity stores in Montreal link to the same website, claiming to be "cannabis consultants."

However, a spokesperson for THCity Inc. says the Trois-Rivières location is no longer affiliated with the company.

Josh Shapiro, who manages day-to-day operations for THCity Inc, said the Trois-Rivières location cut ties with them last winter. He said at that time the store started working with Le 710 and began operating as a dispensary.

"We do not want to be associated with that whatsoever," said Shapiro.

He said that THCity Inc. is not a dispensary, and that it instead helps medical cannabis users learn how to make their own derivatives and connects them with licensed producers.

Shapiro said he was shocked to see that their company logo was still on the Trois-Rivières storefront when he heard news of the raids.

Online searches for the Trois-Rivières location lead to a different website which describes itself as an intermediary between prescription-holding patients and "recognized" producers. Its storefront advertising claims it to be an "ACMPR consultation service," referring to Health Canada's Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Le 710 Smokes and Vapors is listed as an affiliate on THCity Inc.'s website​, as is the Quebec Medical Cannabis Consumer Association (ACCMQ) — a co-operative dedicated to helping patients who believe they could benefit from medical cannabis.

Shapiro says the THCity Inc. website is out of date and needs to be updated with its current affiliates.

THCity Inc. wants people to verify that they are over 19 before entering the website. (CBC)

SQ spokesperson Hélène St-Pierre told CBC News that stores operating on the island of Montreal fall under the jurisdiction of Montreal police.

While some stores may claim to be, not all are authorized to sell medicinal cannabis products, she said. The SQ focused its efforts on stores that are not actually licensed to sell cannabis and fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial police.

With files from Radio-Canada