Pubdate: Fri, 13 May 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Authors: Betsy Powell and Jennifer Pagliaro
Page: GT2


Numbers will explode if left unaddressed, mayor fears

City and law enforcement officials are in the midst of a wide-scale
investigation into the dozens of unlicensed marijuana outlets that
have exploded around Toronto.

"Once we have the evidence we need we will be going forward and laying
charges through the courts and serving them with the appropriate
summonses," said Mark Sraga, director of investigations with municipal
licensing and standards.

That could include Toronto police charging operators with drug
trafficking, Sraga said.

The pot entrepreneurs could also be hit with operating without a
business licence or contravening zoning bylaws. The latter carries a
maximum penalty of $50,000 for a corporation and $25,000 for an individual.

"The fashion in which they're operating, they know they're outside the
law," said Sraga. On Thursday, Mayor John Tory sent a letter to Tracey
Cook, licensing's executive director, asking her to direct staff to
explore ways of regulating these businesses.

Vancouver and Victoria have introduced licensing fees and regulations
that control pot shops' proximity to schools, community centres and
other dispensaries.

Tory also asked Cook to work with the police to use whatever
enforcement mechanisms are available.

"We just can't have allegedly medical marijuana dispensaries popping
up on every street corner, in a completely unregulated manner," he

Medical marijuana is currently only legally available for those with a
prescription. They receive shipments in the mail from Health
Canada-approved producers.

The federal government plans to legalize possession of pot for
recreational use, although there is no firm timetable. The mayor
expressed skepticism that the proliferation of pot shops here is due
to "a massive increase in the number of bona fide prescriptions being

In his letter, Tory said the "speed with which these storefronts are
proliferating and the concentration of dispensaries in some areas of
our city is alarming."

Sraga said officials are also worried about the ingredients contained
in edible marijuana products that many outlets are selling. "There is
a health and safety concern where people are perhaps purchasing and
ingesting products that they have no way of knowing the quality of
what they are in fact consuming."

Sraga expects to announce results of the investigation in two weeks.
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