Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Peter Goffin
Page: GT1


Cops are 'setting a standard few can live up to' due to fear of
charges, law professor says

Toronto police are asking illegal marijuana dispensaries to report
robberies committed in their shops, but lawyers say the fear of
criminal charges makes co-operating with police a difficult prospect
for pot sellers.

At a news conference Monday morning, police Supt. Bryce Evans said he
found it "disturbing" that dispensaries refuse to co-operate with, or
turn over evidence to police.

"They increase the victimizations because they want the almighty
dollar and the profit from the sale of illegal marijuana," Evans said
about dispensary owners.

There have been four dispensaries robbed this month alone, Evans told
reporters, and a total of 13 robberies since June 2016.

On two of those occasions, police charged the dispensary owners with
possession for the purpose of trafficking, after being called in to
investigate the robberies.

Storefront pot dispensaries are illegal under current Canadian

Though many Toronto dispensaries claim to offer medicinal marijuana,
only 38 providers are licensed by Health Canada.

"I realize that there is no legal obligation to report a crime, but
where is your moral sense of an obligation?" Evans asked. "When will
you step up to the plate for your employees (and) customers?"

Alan Young, professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School,
said police are "setting a standard few can live up to" by calling on
dispensary owners to report a crime despite the risk of charges.

"When you operate in a grey or black market, you don't have the same
sense of security that other people have, feeling you can call the
police to protect you, because you are always worried about
repercussions," Young said.

"Right now, knowing the police have very zealously been targeting
dispensaries, I can't imagine anyone wanting to call if they were
concerned about facing charges."

Whether or not dispensary owners are charged is determined on a
caseby-case basis, police say.

But officers will seize any narcotics they find during any
investigation, regardless of why they were initially called to the
scene, Evans said.

"It's like gambling, when you roll the dice you take the chance,"
Evans said. "They roll the dice by opening up an illegal dispensary,
and if you don't win by rolling the dice, well in their case we take
their marijuana."

Asked by the Star why dispensary owners would risk being charged when
they report a robbery, Evans responded, "These questions being asked,
you're making the dispensaries victims. It's illegal."

Many dispensary owners do contact police in the wake of a

Staff at the Green Leaf, near Danforth and Woodbine Aves., were happy
to co-operate with officers after a Jan. 14 robbery, in which a
customer was pistol whipped, said store manager Stewart MacDonald.

"We're quite thankful for the upfront assistance (police) provided,"
MacDonald said. "They returned our cash, not our product, but that's
understandable. It's all gone as it should, in my opinion."

MacDonald added that he believes dispensaries must co-operate with
police if they want to be considered legitimate businesses, as many

Lawyer Paul Lewin said mistrust of police amongst many dispensary
owners was stoked by Project Claudia - the crackdown that saw dozens
of Toronto pot shops raided and over 180 charges laid in May 2016.

"We've just gone through this massive wave of arrests over the last
eight months and now there's some surprise that people are reluctant?"
said Lewin, who specializes in marijuanarelated cases.

"It's not just the cops, it's the federal government," he added. "They
could fix this."

Lewin said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the government's
marijuana task force could have instituted interim enforcement
measures while they worked out the specifics of ending

Legalizing and regulating marijuana was a key Trudeau campaign
promise, but no date has yet been set for new laws to take effect.

In December 2016, Trudeau told the Star that, until prohibition
officially ends, he wants police to criminally charge illegal
dispensary operators.

At Monday's press conference, Evans said Toronto police "are not
interested in what the federal government is doing," but, rather, in
what laws exist today.

"We can sit there and say it's a grey area, it's a clouded area. No,
it's not . . . Right now it's clear."

- - With files from Salmaan Farooqui
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt