Unrest After Toronto Raids Dispensaries and Promises More Raids

A series of raids on unlicensed dispensaries in Toronto in May led to protests from marijuana advocates and a raucous news conference where protesters were escorted out.

The raids hit more than 40 dispensaries in Toronto. Those involved said they dispensed medical marijuana, which is legal in Canada. However, police said some of the businesses lacked proper licensing and in some cases violated zoning laws.

Police confiscated 270 kilograms of marijuana, $160,000 in cash and 142 kilograms of pot-infused cookies, among other items.

Toronto police promised there would be more raids. They then quickly made good on that promise on June 23rd. They raided four more dispensaries in the city, according to the Toronto Star. At least three people were arrested at one location.

“I said the investigation would continue, and this is a result of what I said,” Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Toronto Raids Dispensaries: A Waste of Tax Dollars?

Marijuana advocates called the raids a waste of taxpayers’ money. They are claiming the only result is that those who use marijuana for medical purposes are not getting it. They questioned whether the raid was politically motivated.

Saunders, at a May news conference, maintained they were not, saying “I was not pressured politically…this is about public safety.”

Protesters who began shouting in protest against the raids during the conference were escorted out.

Different Situation in Canada

Both Canada and the United States are going through sweeping changes in marijuana laws. Although the situation in Canada is different. There, medical marijuana has already been made legal at the federal level. The majority Liberal Party has vowed to introduce legislation in 2017. These laws would legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana.

While voters in four U.S. states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, it remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

“Police are sort of the man in the middle, as it were,” public relations professional Dave Gordon told the Star about the situation in Toronto.

“You’ve got this commitment to legalization legislation on the federal end, and on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got compassion clubs and entrepreneurs who’ve taken advantage of the lag and started up illegal dispensaries.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that legalizing marijuana would fix a “failed system.” It would help to eliminate criminals from running the marijuana business in Canada. He also said the Canadian government would monitor the situation in Colorado and Washington to see how legalization affected the two U.S. states.