Pubdate: Sat, 28 May 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Diana Mehta
Page: A13


Chief says many not clearly marked with contents in

TORONTO - "Genuine" health concerns and "significant" community
complaints prompted a string of police raids on unregulated marijuana
dispensaries across Toronto, the city's police chief explained Friday
after being criticized by a number of residents for the action.

Police Chief Mark Saunders emphasized that operation "Project Claudia"
would not prevent anyone with a prescription for medical marijuana
from accessing the drug.

"I want to be very clear about our intentions," he said at a news
conference that drew a mix of journalists and marijuana activists.

"Project Claudia is not an attack on the lawful production,
distribution or purchasing of marijuana for medical purposes. It's the
health concern. It is a genuine heath concern because there is no
regulatory process behind it."

The operation angered some Torontonians, who took to social media to
denounce it as a waste of time and police resources. Others also
questioned the timing of the move just months after the federal
government announced it will introduce legislation to legalize and
regulate marijuana next spring.

But Saunders fended off the criticism even as his remarks were
frequently interrupted by angry pot activists and a protest against
the raid took place outside police headquarters.

Since March, he said, the number of marijuana dispensaries has doubled
in the city - with half of the facilities investigated by police
located within 300 metres of schools. After consulting city officials
and the public prosecution service of Canada, Saunders said he had to
make the "hard decision" to clamp down on the proliferation of pot

"Once I had a full understanding of what the health concerns were,
that was when I decided to take the action. This is about public safety."

Search warrants were carried out on 43 locations by police and city
municipal licensing and standards staff. Ninety people were arrested
and a slew of charges laid - 71 criminal charges and 186 under the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

About 270 kilograms of dried cannabis, as well as hundreds of
kilograms of pot-laced food products such as chocolate, brownies and
candies were seized during the raid.

"These locations have a broader impact on the surrounding
neighbourhoods. There is no quality control whatsoever on these
products," Saunders said. "They are marketed in a way to disguise the
unknown and unregulated amount of THC in the products."

All the dispensaries targeted had been under investigation for weeks,
and were issued letters on May 18 warning them they were engaged in
unlawful activities and that action would be taken if they didn't stop.

Only one pot shop shut down as a result of the letters, Saunders

"These locations cannot tell you where it's coming from nor what its
contents is," he said. "You don't even know who you're purchasing off.
Out of the arrests that we made, two people were wanted." Marijuana
activists disagreed. "These dispensaries do no harm. The only harm
being done in association with these dispensaries is the harm of
patients being made to suffer and the harm of peaceful citizens being
given criminal records," said Jodie Emery, wife of Marc Emery,
Canada's self-proclaimed "Prince of Pot," who served five years in a
U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds from Canada to American customers.

"Doctors in this country are not providing access and that's why
dispensaries have become so popular, because the people demand it."

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has said it will keep pot out of
the hands of children and deny criminals profits of illicit dealing.
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