Toronto Dispensaries Coalition blame police for rash of robberies

The Toronto Dispensaries Coalition say pot shops across the city are being stigmatized by police raids and that the high number of recent robberies is linked to the crackdown.

Police raids bring violence into the city, with no recourse by the public,” said spokesperson Michael McLellan in a press release. “The raids themselves are violent, and since criminals believe dispensaries will not have the support of the police, dispensaries are viewed as easy targets for robberies.”

Toronto police said earlier this week there have been 13 robberies of dispensaries in Canada’s largest city since June 2016 and that many more go unreported.

“Employees and customers have been stabbed, pistol-whipped and pepper-sprayed,” said Supt. Bryce Evans at a news conference three days ago. “There is no doubt that the employees and customers have been traumatized by these violent armed robberies.”

By not reporting robberies to police, Evans claimed owners and operators are giving an “open invitation to victimization,” but admitted police will also seize any cannabis products found during an investigation.

But the dispensary coalition argue they are instead being unfairly targeted by police and that city officials should move towards regulation to improve community safety.

“While it was encouraging that Mayor John Tory requested city staff to explore regulatory mechanisms for cannabis dispensaries in 2016, there has been a continued crackdown with little community consultation,” the media release read. “Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) was asked to produce recommendations on regulating storefronts which have not been made available publicly or to the affected businesses. MLS has ticketed landlords and proprietors with fines, on top of threats of forfeiture and closing orders for stores carrying edibles.”

The federal government is moving to legalize recreational cannabis, but current laws will stand until new legislation is ratified.

Until then, dispensaries in Toronto continue to operate under the whims of law enforcement officials. Toronto police said they have been targeting pot shops near schools and playgrounds, and ones that have received complaints.

“Let us not forget that this about patients,” said Brandy Zurborg of Queens of Cannabis, the city’s only all-female owned and operated dispensary. “These patients include children who suffer from seizures, patients suffering from MS, and cancer patients who need pain relief now.”