Toronto

Pot may be legal but pot shops aren't, and Toronto police are still busting them

Toronto police raided five illegal pot shops on Friday with help from the city just days after cannabis was legalized across Canada.

It still isn’t legal to operate brick-and-mortar pot shops in Ontario until 2019

Cannabis dispensary Cloud 6ix on Friday. The city's municipal licensing and standards division says five illegal pot shops were raided across Toronto on Friday. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Toronto police raided five illegal pot shops on Friday with help from the city just days after cannabis was legalized across Canada. 

While it may now be legal to smoke pot in Ontario, it still isn't legal to operate brick-and-mortar pot shops in the province.

The only legal venue to buy pot is online via the Ontario Cannabis Store, until legal physical stores open up next year.

Ontario will be issuing licences to operate dispensaries, but that system won't be in place until April 1, 2019.

Toronto police spokesperson Gary Long told CBC Toronto eight people were charged and released Friday, and police would be continuing to take action against illegal dispensaries.  

"Just like before Oct. 17, we're continuing to function and proceed under the provincial Cannabis Act," he said. "Anybody who chooses still to stay open during this time will still face us enforcing the law."

Police say that together with the city they issued interim closures at the following locations after Friday's raids: 66 Fort York Blvd., 333 Spadina Ave., 912 Danforth Ave., 1506 Dundas St. W., and 2655 Lawrence Ave. E.

The executive director of the city's municipal licensing and standards division, Tracey Cook, told CBC Toronto that she wasn't surprised that some illegal dispensaries were still open, but was disappointed.

"The province has laid out a very reasonable regime for people to participate in a lawful market," she said. "I would have expected people who are legitimate business operators to do so in compliance with the law."

Toronto's municipal licensing and standards division says there were 92 illegal cannabis stores in the city shortly before pot became legal in Canada.

On legalization day, city officers found that 36 stores were open, while 56 were closed.

Cook said that the city has notified all landlords of the pot shops of the unlawful activity going on at their property.

"They are also accountable to ensure the contraventions of the Cannabis Act do not occur, so we are hoping that they will deal with the issue as well," she added.

Friday's action wasn't about sending a message, but rather enforcing the law, Cook said, adding that she believes people know the rules but are choosing to ignore them.

"There will be opportunities for them to participate lawfully later, and their conduct now may significantly jeopardize that opportunity," she said.

"I'm hoping people will realize that there is a new dawn of opportunity for them, but they need to comply with the law."

On Wednesday, police raided two dispensaries on Vancouver Island and on Thursday police raided a pot shop in St. John's.

With files from The Canadian Press

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