Toronto

Company wins provincial cannabis lottery proposing pot shop at same address as illegal CAFE store

A numbered company that's a winner in Ontario's latest cannabis store lottery is proposing to open up at the same Toronto address as the illegal cannabis dispensary CAFE, which has repeatedly been shut down by police. 

City and police have repeatedly shut down CAFE locations across Toronto

Toronto police officers confront a resident during a raid on an illegal pot store at 104 Harbord St. in July. A numbered company, whose address is the site of the store, is among 42 cannabis retail lottery winners. (Paul Smith/CBC)

A numbered company that's a winner in Ontario's latest cannabis store lottery is proposing to open up at the same Toronto address as the illegal cannabis dispensary CAFE, which has repeatedly been shut down by police.

But the sole director of that numbered company, film producer and director Rob Heydon, says he has "no connection" to CAFE or the people behind it.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on Wednesday announced 42 lottery winners — 4,800 people or companies had expressed interest in opening a legal pot shop — that will now have the chance to open a legal store. The full list is at the bottom of this story.

Among the winners was 11180673 Canada Inc., which listed 104 Harbord St. as its proposed retail location — where one of CAFE's four outlets is currently based. 

CAFE, which stands for Cannabis and Fine Edibles, has repeatedly flouted cannabis laws and police have raided the Harbord Street location at least four times. The City of Toronto says as of Aug. 8, a dozen charges had been laid under the provincial Cannabis Control Act in relation to the pot shop.

The city says three of those charges are against the property owner, Ali Gillani, under a section of the law aimed at landlords who "knowingly permit a premises" to be used for illegal cannabis activity. 

City officials, meanwhile, were forced to place giant concrete blocks in front of CAFE locations to stop the company from operating.

The city has shut the CAFE location at 104 Harbord Street down by blocking it off with concrete slabs. The company has since opened a tent on the sidewalk in front of the store in protest. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Heydon, who is the only name on company documents for 11180673 Canada Inc., told CBC News on Wednesday that he has "no connection" to CAFE or the people behind it.

"I am a film producer and director and have never met these people you talk about," he said in a text message. 

He would not answer questions about how 104 Harbord St. was chosen as the location for the pot shop his numbered company is proposing. He also wouldn't say how he knows Gillani, the property's owner listed in land records.  

Gillani was at one point the chief operating officer and a director of a company called Incryptex, which was co-founded by convicted counterfeiter and fraudster Wesley Weber — who himself is one of the main players in CAFE, an ongoing CBC investigation has found

Gillani did not immediately return an email from CBC seeking comment. 

In previous statements to CBC News, CAFE has defended its refusal to be shut down, saying its customers have a right to "reasonable, dignified access" to cannabis — access they say the government-regulated market, with its shortages and wait times and lack of edibles, has failed to consistently provide.

Government defends lottery process

The Ontario government defended the lottery process on Wednesday when asked about the selection.

Jenessa Crognali, press secretary for Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, said parties selected through the lottery process can now apply for a licence to operate a cannabis store, but when they do, their applications will be subject to the agency's "strict due diligence process" to make sure they comply with the Cannabis License Act and its regulations.

"The Act precludes licences from being issued to anyone with ties to organized crime, or who has been charged or convicted for contravening the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 or for the illegal sale of cannabis after October 17, 2018," Crognali said in the email.

"In addition, licences will not be issued to anyone for whom there are reasonable grounds to believe will not act with integrity, honesty or in the public interest."

Mark Sraga, director of investigative services for the city's municipal licensing and standards division, says he is surprised that the company linked to the address took part in the lottery. (CBC)

Mark Sraga, director of investigative services for the city's municipal licensing and standards division, said he is taken aback that the company linked to the address took part in the lottery. Store operators, employees and property owners at the address have been charged under Ontario's Cannabis Control Act. 

"I'm a bit surprised that the applicants would actually submit a lottery licence knowing, as I understand it, the regulations and requirements to be eligible for a licence," Sraga said.

"The fact that their names got drawn, as I understand it, the lottery is a random picking of entries so nobody has control over it or could foresee what may come out of the selection process."

Sraga said the selection of the company is "frustrating" and he thinks the AGCO could revisit its criteria to ensure such a company would not be able to apply. The application itself shows a certain "boldness," he added.

The company has ignored the law and the government has been clear that if a company was illegally selling cannabis after Oct. 17, 2018, it would not be eligible to open a legal store, Sraga told CBC Toronto.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which regulates the retail cannabis sector, held the province's second cannabis store lottery on Tuesday and announced the results on Wednesday. (Gosia Wozniacka/The Associated Press)

An investigation into the store is ongoing, he said. There are now fewer than 10 illegal pot stores operating in Toronto, he added.

Applicants had to secure retail space, capital to open

Unlike the first lottery, applicants in the latest draw had to show that they had secured retail space that could be used as a store if they were selected, and that they had enough capital — access to at least $250,000 — to open it.

The winners now have until Aug. 28 to complete an application to open a store that will be vetted by the AGCO.

The 42 stores will be distributed regionally. In addition to the 13 in Toronto, there will be:

  • Six going to the Greater Toronto Area.
  • 11 in the west region.
  •  Seven going to the east region.
  •  In the north, one each in Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins.

Here's the full list of those who won a cannabis retail licence in the second AGCO lottery:

Toronto region:

  • 9247220 Canada Ltd., 570 Bloor St. W.
  • Najla Guthrie, 964 Kingston Rd.
  • 11180673 Canada Inc., 104 Harbord St.
  • 1916384 Alberta Ltd., 619 King St. W.
  • Jason Krulicki, 2480-2490 Gerrard St. E., Unit 20A.
  • Brian F. Parker, 1303 Queen St. E.
  • 2197130 Alberta Ltd., 1180 Queen St. W.
  • Varant Kichian, 213 Queen St. E.
  • Maria Laura Rasile, 237 Queen St. W.
  • Helene Vassos, 730 Danforth Avenue, Suite 1.
  • 2464 Dufferin Inc., 2464 Dufferin St.
  • 2708654 Ontario Ltd., 501 Church St.
  • Junaid Khan, 815 Queen St. W.

GTA region:

  • Cory Floyd Cacciavillani, 1025 Plains Rd. E., Burlington.
  • Ekrem Uzunova, 20 Simcoe St. S., Oshawa.
  • Grant Willson, 15243 Yonge St., Unit 3, Aurora.
  • Corner Grass Corp., 5779 Main St., Unit 105, Stouffville.
  • Ravino Junaev, 20 Simcoe St. S., Oshawa.
  • 2674620 Ontario Limited, 1505 Guelph Line, Unit 3-4, Burlington.

West region:

  • Patricia, Gertrude, Donnelly, 589 Fairview Rd. S., Kitchener.
  • Noah Soberano, 1135 Richmond St., London.
  • 2249364 Ontario Inc., 1400 Upper James St. Suite 8, Hamilton.
  • Pietro Greco, 115 Division St., Welland.
  • Kyriakos G. Anastasiadis, 545 Ouellette Ave., Windsor.
  • 11535447 Canada Corp., 1338 S. Service Rd., Building C 5 Unit 2, Winona Crossing Shopping Centre, Stoney Creek.
  • Robert Chomiak, 1310 Fanshawe Park Rd. W., Unit F1, London.
  • Bara Bahlul, 8685 Lundy's Lane, Unit 6, Niagara Falls.
  • Eleonora Plata, 1142 Wilson St. W., Unit 9, Ancaster.
  • Hratch Abrahamian, 395 Ontario St., Suite B2, St. Catharines.
  • John Reynolds, 120 Wyndham St. N., Guelph.

East region:

  • Ronen Ackerman, 2008 Commerce Park Dr., Innisfil.
  • Ethan Stark, 4335 Strandherd Dr., Unit 3, 4, 5, Nepean.
  • Huge Shops Ontario Inc., 566 Frank Hill Rd., Peterborough.
  • German Olga, 1988 Commerce Park Dr., Innisfil.
  • Ilim Uzunova, 1982 Commerce Park Dr., Innisfil.
  • Louis Laskovski, 312 Hurontario St., Collingwood.
  • Sofia Kuliev, 65 Collier St., Barrie.

North region:

  • Thomas Miszuk, 317 Northern Ave. S., Sault Ste. Marie.
  • CC alliance, 273 Pine St. S., Timmins.
  • Carl Ignatius, 420 Second St. S., Kenora.
  • Gerald Harrison, 1802 Victoria Ave. E., Thunder Bay.
  • Lorne J. Fine, 390 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 3, North Bay.

With files from CBC's Zach Dubinsky and The Canadian Press

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