Pubdate: Mon, 06 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto 24hours (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Inc.
Author: Chris Doucette
Page: 3


Lone province pot pusher is the Ont. gov't!

The fix is in and it's only a matter of time until the city's
marijuana dispensaries are forced out of business by the new pusher in
town - the Ontario government.

New legislation announced Nov. 1 by the province, as it prepares to
open 150 marijuana stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario,
includes massive fines and serious jail time for selling weed
illegally once the federal government legalizes cannabis in 2018.

The contradictory message has left pot shop owners and employees - who
have been the tip of the spear in the legalization fight - acutely
aware their days of selling from a storefront are numbered.

"I believe in what I'm doing and I'll keep fighting as long as I can,
but I think this will eventually push us all out business," a
dispensary owner, who asked not to be identified, told Postmedia Network.

Although he knows it's inevitable cops will shut him down, he'd like
to keep his lucrative business going as long as possible. And he was
concerned speaking out publicly might get his pot shops targeted
sooner rather than later.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made it clear shuttering dispensaries was a
major component of the new legislation, which includes stiff penalties
for those convicted of selling or distributing marijuana illegally.

Individuals such as dispensary staff - some of whom have health issues
and work in shops to get a discount on their medicine - will face a
maximum $250,000 fine and up to two years in jail.

Corporations - which could include dispensary owners - will face fines
of up to $1 million.

"I don't know anyone who can pay $250,000, let alone a million," the
dispensary owner said. "The government is putting a lot of people out
of work, leaving them unable to afford their medicine and potentially
ruining lives."

The new bill also enables cops to immediately close shops illegally
selling marijuana.

Toronto Police were reluctant to comment on the increased firepower
being added to their enforcement arsenal.

"We have been enforcing the law and will continue to do so," spokesman
Mark Pugash said. "And we welcome anything that helps us with that

Dispensaries spread like wildfire in the city after Justin Trudeau was
elected prime minister in 2015 with a vow to legalize cannabis for
recreational use. More than 80 pot shops had sprung up in Toronto by
the time cops began cracking down on the illegal businesses in May
2016 with Project Claudia, raiding 43 stores and arresting 90 people..

It was a costly endeavour that saw some shops close but many re-opened
within days. And by July 2017 charges had been withdrawn against 72 of
the accused.

Despite the lack of success, police have continued to raid pot shops
almost weekly.

The dispensary owner we spoke to said it's unfortunate the province
chose not to include those already in the business when developing
plans to roll out its new cannabis stores.

"I think these stores will be a big hit when they launch, but they're
not going to be able to sustain that buzz," he said, predicting
patrons will tire of inferior pot and return to buying from "their guy
(or gal)" who offers higher quality and wider variety.

Those currently in the business will continue to sell, albeit in the
shadows and "the black market will thrive," he said.

He found it laughable that Wynne, when was asked about the
government's pot pricing during her announcement, claimed it "actually
isn't about money."

"This is all about money," he said. "The government, former
politicians and ex-cops are all chasing the dollar."

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Look who's turning over a green leaf ! Former politicians, ex-cops and
others poised to strike gold when pot is legalized next year:

* Julian Fantino - a staunch opponent of weed while serving as police
chief in London, York and Toronto, before becoming OPP commissioner
and a Harper cabinet minister - is executive chair of Aleafia Inc., a
company that connects medicinal-marijuana users with licensed growers.

* Raf Souccar - a former undercover drug officer and RCMP deputy
commissioner who served on Trudeau's marijuana-legalization task force
- - is president and chief executive at Aleafia.

* Kim Derry, a longtime friend of MP Bill Blair - the Trudeau
government's point man on pot legislation - who served as a deputy
chief when Blair was Toronto Police chief, is a security adviser for
THC Meds Ontario.

* Former Ontario deputy premier George Smitherman, who once served as
the province's health minister, serves on the board at THC Meds Ontario.

* Former prime minister John Turner is a board member for Muilboom
Organic Inc.

* Former premier Ernie Eves is chairman of Timeless Herbal Care and
former Toronto lawyer Courtney Betty is that company's CEO.

* Former BC premier Mike Harcourt is the chairman of True Leaf
Medicine Inc.

* Chuck Rifici founded Tweed Marijuana Inc., the country's first
licence provider to go public, while he was CFO of the Liberal Party
of Canada.
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MAP posted-by: Matt