Toronto

Violent Toronto pot dispensary robberies often unreported, police say

Toronto police say there have already been four robberies of storefront marijuana dispensaries so far this year — and slammed store owners for not always reporting the robberies to police.

Dispensary workers have been 'stabbed, pistol-whipped, pepper-sprayed,' police say

Police said marijuana dispensary owners are providing an "open invitation to victimization" by not reporting robberies. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

Toronto police say there have already been four robberies of storefront marijuana dispensaries so far this year — and slammed store owners for not always reporting the robberies to police.

Two of the four robberies this year were not reported by owners or employees, Supt. Bryce Evans told reporters at a police headquarters press conference on Monday morning.

Suspects were armed with guns in two of the robberies, he said, and in one case, the suspects were armed with knives.

Employees and customers stabbed, pistol-whipped

Six of the 13 known robberies that stretch back to 2016 were not reported by owners or employees, but by customers or people in the area, Evans said.

In 10 of those cases, suspects in the robberies were armed with handguns.

Employees and customers at the marijuana dispensaries have been "stabbed, pistol-whipped, pepper-sprayed" in these various robberies, Evans said.

Two of the four robberies at marijuana dispensaries this year were not reported by owners or employees, says Supt. Bryce Evans of the Toronto police. (CBC News)

Earlier in January, for instance, three suspects robbed The Green Leaf dispensary on Danforth Avenue near Woodbine Avenue and beat one of its employees, according to police.

"There's no doubt employees and customers have been traumatized by these violent, armed robberies," Evans said.

Evans said police don't discriminate and will not withhold services from dispensary staff, but will seize any illegal narcotics found on a premises during a robbery investigation.

'Absolutely a public safety issue'

Previously, Toronto police have come under fire for raids on dispensaries where police believed marijuana was being sold illegally.

Back in May 2016, critics called the Project Claudia raids "ridiculous," and some Twitter users said they were a waste of police resources.

Evans defended the raids on Monday, stressing that "marijuana dispensaries are illegal."

A Toronto police officer bags evidence outside a marijuana dispensary in Kensington Market in 2016. Police executed search warrants at a number of dispensaries where they allege trafficking has occurred. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Acting Insp. Steve Watts, of the Toronto Drug Squad, said there was debate following the raids about whether dispensaries presented a public safety issue, adding this is "absolutely a public safety issue now."

About 44 dispensaries are currently operating in Toronto, he said, with some locations taking in up to $30,000 a day.

By not reporting robberies to police, Evans said owners and operators of the dispensaries are giving an "open invitation to victimization."

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