Thirteen of the city’s dispensaries have been sent letters warning property owners that they may see police action or have their space seized by the courts after referral to Ontario’s Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities Office.
The letter stated that if properties continue to “represent a threat to the health, safety and security of the community, the Ottawa Police Service will take action as authorized by the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and any other provincial statutes available.”
The police letter tells landlords they can contact police for “assistance with respect to strategies which may be employed by you to reduce/cease the unlawful activity associated with our property.”
Police said that, after receiving the letters, some landlords told them they thought the businesses were legal and are now consulting with lawyers.
A landlord for CannaGreen dispensary wants to evict his tenant after saying he had no idea cannabis would be sold, another, Phap Lu didn’t know the business was illegal.
“I ask the police, ‘What should I do now?’” said Lu. “Why are you guys not shutting it down if it’s illegal?
“Why don’t the police department do that kind of action? They put the pressure on the landlord. They have a business to run.”
The letters mirror similar action taken by the city of Toronto. In May, police in that city sent out 78 letters to 83 dispensary landlords, giving them three days to shut down their operations or face action. The next week, police carried out Project Claudia, a series of raids against 43 dispensaries that saw 90 arrested and 186 charges laid.
The letters from Ottawa police follow comments published earlier this week in a report presented to the Ottawa Police Services Board from Ottawa Chief of Police Charles Bordeleau.
“There is a proven and accepted need for medicinal marijuana,” Bordeleau wrote. “It is the limitations surrounding access to that medicinal marihuana that has caused the Supreme Court to indicate that dispensaries are at the heart of access.”