Out in the Open

Dispensary owner won't give up on pot industry after police raid

Toronto dispensary owner fights for survival after police raided his businesses and seized his inventory
A marijuana dispensary on the Danforth is closed after Toronto police raid pot shops in the city. (Rebecca Silverstone/CBC)

There's a battle brewing for profit from the legal weed market in Canada. Since the talk of legalization, hundreds of storefront dispensaries began popping up across the country. These shops operate on varying degrees of legitimacy: most claim to offer the drug for medicinal purposes, and some even have a person on-site to write so-called prescriptions.

But by Canadian law, most of the storefront dispensaries are breaking the law by selling marijuana. In order to curb the rapid growth of the illicit businesses in Toronto, the city police has raided a number of dispensaries in the city, seizing hundreds of pounds of marijuana products.

I think the grassroots people first should have the opportunity to profit- Gord, Toronto dispensary owner

Out in the Open host Piya Chattopadhyay and producer Daniel Guillemette met with an owner of a Toronto pot dispensary that got raided. Gord*, who's in his early forties, has been dealing marijuana since he was 14. He has spent time in jail for possession of marijuana with intent to sell. For the past few years, he's been trying to put his criminal past behind him and start a legitimate businessby opening his own marijuana dispensary.

Gord opened up the shop in preparation for upcoming changes in Canadian law, to be ready to profit from marijuana sales legally.

"I think the grassroots people first should have the opportunity to profit... The original advocates, the original growers, the people who put their name, their ass, their skin in the game. People like us, who were doing it illegally," Gord told Piya.

"If you just allow people who have no criminal records and are supposed to be upstanding people, I think that's an oxymoron," he said. "Because if you were upstanding, then you'd hold on to your beliefs ... about [marijuana] being this horrible drug. But because the judicial system has changed their mind, now you think that you deserve to be the one to make money and [monetize] this?"

Out in the Open team visited Gord before the Toronto police raided the store and seized his inventory as part of Project Claudia, which aimed to shut down all dispensaries operating outside the law. Gord told Piya he was "absolutely disgusted" with the authorities.

"The irony is, they're going to try and vilify us; but in the background, all they're trying to do is get another monopoly on one of the world's biggest industries coming," he said.

Gord's immediate plans is to survive on the resources he had saved up, and attempt to reopen the shop.

"This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is the industry I want to represent and fight for."

*name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of the topic.