Toronto police say they have concerns about the number of cannabis dispensaries being robbed across the city and that not all of them are even being reported to police.
Which could have something to do with the fact that, in at least two recent robberies police have investigated, dispensary owners have ended up being charged with breaking the law themselves.
Police held a news conference this morning to address several recent violent robberies. Supt. Bryce Evans said large amounts of cash and the “multiple kilos” of pot available at dispensaries make them an easy target for thieves.
“Employees and customers have been stabbed, pistol-whipped and pepper-sprayed,” Evans told reporters. “There is no doubt that the employees and customers have been traumatized by these violent armed robberies.”
By not reporting robberies to police, Evans said owners and operators are giving an “open invitation to victimization,” but admitted police will also seize any cannabis products found during an investigation.
“This is not about the police against the owner, operators of illegal marijuana dispensaries,” said Evans. “It is we the police upholding our oath of office, which includes the protection of people. Fact: We do not discriminate or withhold our services from the people we swore to protect and serve. Fact: We will fully investigate robberies of all dispensaries. Fact: We will seize any illegal narcotics found on the premises during the robbery investigations as we would do with any incident.”
There have been 17 robberies of pot shops since last June and 10 involved suspects armed with handguns or at least convincing replicas. Evans said six of them were not reported to police by the owners or staff, but rather by customers or witnesses.
The most recent incident happened on Jan. 15 when three masked robbers entered The Green Leaf on Danforth Avenue in Toronto East, assaulted a staff member and fired a gunshot before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash and products.
Cannabis dispensaries currently remain against the law despite assurances from the Trudeau government to eventually legalize it. Currently, licensed medical cannabis producers can only sell to people with a doctor’s prescription.