Pot dispensaries need to take security risks seriously, says advocate
Years ago, dispensaries had their own security measures to prevent robbery: advocate
An advocate for medical marijuana says security is a serious problem for dispensaries in Toronto because the substance being sold is prohibited and the outlets could be targeted by criminals who think owners may be reluctant to report to police.
Tracy Curley, who has worked in several dispensaries, told Metro Morning she thinks dispensary owners getting into business may not realize the risks involved.
Curley said the first dispensaries that appeared in Toronto years ago had open door policies. They quickly learned that they had to prevent robberies themselves. She said she was involved herself in creating more secure environments when she was an employee.
Curley said dispensaries would have steel mesh in walls, bulletproof glass, steel doors and a secure waiting room that involved what she called "man traps." Customers, once inside the waiting room, could not enter or leave the premises until allowed.
"Of course, we took security very, very seriously," she said. "There was never less than two people on site at a time. We made sure we walked with each other on our way home at the end of shifts. You are dealing with a prohibited substance that has a value."
Project Claudia, in which police raided several dispensaries in Toronto earlier this year, means dispensaries are reluctant to call police about robberies because it could result in staff members being charged, she said.
"You are stuck between a rock and a hard place," she said. "Obviously, robbers think you are going to be too afraid to call the police."
Curley spoke out about dispensary robberies after an alleged incident last week in Toronto's west end.
Const. Caroline De Kloet, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said police received a report on Dec. 23 from a witness to an alleged robbery at the Canna Clinic on Ossington Avenue near Dundas Street West on Dec. 21. It allegedly involved firearms, she said.
De Kloet said the establishment itself never filed a complaint about the alleged robbery and there is no police investigation. No injuries were reported by the witness, she said.
"There wasn't an official complaint. We have a report on file from a witness," she said Wednesday. "There is no victim. The location itself is not co-operating with police."
De Kloet said marijuana dispensaries are operating outside of the law. "At the end of the day, it's an illegal establishment," she said.
The Toronto Police Service's Hold Up Squad does not have statistics on robberies involving marijuana dispensaries in the city.
According to Health Canada, marijuana dispensaries are not licensed by the federal government and "sell product that may be contaminated or otherwise unsafe."
Health Canada said more than 30 producers are licensed in Canada.
With files from Metro Morning