John Tory says it's time for another round of pot shop crackdowns

Though he admits past raids have done little to slow the industry's growth, Toronto Mayor John Tory wants to see more police operations targeting dispensaries.

Toronto mayor says the city is experiencing an 'upward trend' of new dispensary openings

Mayor John Tory also says he doesn't believe marijuana possession should lead to criminal charges. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto mayor John Tory says he'd like to see further police crackdowns on the growing number of marijuana dispensaries sprouting up around the city.

The last round of raids were conducted in March, when Toronto Police searched stores owned by cannabis activists Marc and Jodie Emery. They were among five people arrested as part of what police called Project Gator.

In May 2016, Toronto Police conducted a much larger operation, raiding 43 storefronts and arresting more than 90 people in the process.

Tory acknowledged in an appearance on Metro Morning on Thursday that those crackdowns have "not really" worked in curbing the fast-growing industry.

Despite the past raids and the looming threat of more police operations, the city estimates that around 60 cannabis dispensaries are still open in Toronto. 

Still, Tory said that targeting the city's most disruptive pot shops is worthwhile. 

"I just don't think these are meant to be in every neighbourhood, in every retail strip," he said. "I don't think people want them and they're against the law."

Tory explained that they've caused problems in areas with children and families. He's also heard stories of people being harassed by would-be cannabis customers while trying to take money out of ATMs.

Toronto's Cannabis Culture locations were raided in March. (CBC)

Though it would be improper for him to direct police Chief Mark Saunders to crack down, he said, he would still like to see more action from police. 

"They have taken action before and I hope they will again because I think we're in an upward trend," said Tory.

Decriminalizing possession

On Monday, Toronto's board of health voted to support a recommendation by chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa calling on the federal government to immediately decriminalize recreational marijuana possession.

Tory did not expressly state if he supports that recommendation, though he did say that he's "always felt that possession of small amounts wasn't something that was worthy of a criminal record." 

"That has nothing to do with this, it's a separate issue," Tory went on. "My priority is to say 'look, I want these shops dealt with.'"