Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Author: Dale Carruthers
Page: A1


Police raid five marijuana dispensaries just two days after MP and
former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, Ottawa's point man on pot
policies, visited London. 'I think it's a waste of resources,' said
one witness to the swoop.

After months of turning a blind eye, London police cracked down on
illegal pot shops Thursday in co-ordinated raids on five dispensaries
that left marijuana activists crying foul and questioning the timing.

Employees were arrested and pot and other evidence seized during the
raids, which came two days after former Toronto police chief Bill
Blair, now a Liberal MP and Ottawa's point man on its plan to legalize
recreational marijuana use, visited London on his Canada-wide tour to
talk to police chiefs and city officials.

"I believe Bill Blair is meeting with the police and telling them to
enforce the law," said cannabis crusader Jodie Emery, wife of former
Londoner Marc Emery, whose high-profile battles with authorities over
pot laws have landed him in jail many times.

Asked this week whether he's relaying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's
message that municipalities should enforce the law when dealing with
dispensaries, Blair told The Free Press police should set their own
local priorities.

Blair's Tuesday meeting with London police Chief John Pare didn't have
anything to do with the raids, said Const. Sandasha Bough, calling it
a "coincidence."

"We've actually been working on these warrants now for approximately
two weeks, and they were as a result of community concerns and
complaints," she said.

Witnesses described tactical officers in unmarked cars swooping in on
the dispensaries Thursday before leading away handcuffed employees.

Jeff Doan said he saw police escort a handcuffed woman from Healing
Health Compassion on Dundas Street.

The woman is an employee at the east-end dispensary, said Doan, 35,
who works at a pot accessory shop in the same plaza.

"I think it's a waste of resources," Doan said of police targeting
dispensaries. "They're not selling recreational (marijuana) to the
public," Doan said. "Everybody who goes in there has a legit card (to
obtain marijuana). I don't know why they just can't leave these people

Dispensaries are illegal under a federal law that limits the sale of
marijuana for medicinal use to a few dozen government-approved
commercial producers.

But dispensary proponents say they provide a needed service for
prescription pot users, though many of the businesses now sell to
members without a valid medicinal licence.

The dispensaries say they buy their product from individuals approved
under an old federal regulatory system to grow their own marijuana for
other medicinal users.

Pot shops have sprouted in many cities in Canada since the Trudeau
government swept to power in late 2015 with a vow to bring in
legislation this spring to legalize recreational marijuana use and
regulate its sale.

Until then, the existing pot laws apply.

In London, six dispensaries have operated in defiance of the law for

Police raided Tasty Budd's on Wharncliffe Road in August, just one
week after it opened, but it reopened days later.

Since then, other dispensaries have opened across the city, including
one in the core.

The crackdown leaves the city with just one remaining pot shop, The
London Compassion Society, which has flown under the radar for more
than two decades. It's unclear why police left it alone Thursday.

A partner at one of the raided shops said it will reopen.

Large bags of marijuana and documents could be seen in evidence bags
while undercover officers worked inside the dispensaries Thursday.

Emery said she's concerned about the privacy of the hundreds of
citizens whose personal information was seized by police.

"I encourage then to contact their politicians," said Emery, who has
partnered with investors to open more than 20 Cannabis Culture
dispensaries across the country, some of which police have raided soon
after opening.

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The raided dispensaries

* Tasty Budd's, 96 Wharncliffe Rd. S.

* The Chronic Hub, 119 Dundas St.

* Herbal Alternatives, 737 Hamilton Rd.

* Healing Health Compassion, 490 Wonderland Rd. S.

Healing Health Compassion, 1472 Dundas St.
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MAP posted-by: Matt