Pubdate: Tue, 13 Feb 2018
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Page: A3


Come as city officials prepare to discuss future of

Police are cracking down on illegal storefront pot shops across
Hamilton even as dispensary advocates prepare for "roundtable"
discussions with city officials about their future.

Operators of five MMJ and Pacifico medical marijuana dispensaries -
spread across the lower city and on the Mountain - told The Spectator
they were raided by police late last week.

Britney Guerra, a vocal dispensary advocate and former owner, said she
has heard from four other raided shops - one as recently as Monday -
but none of those operators were willing to speak to The Spectator.

"Dispensary raids in #HamOnt across the city. Guessing  drug squad dealt with the fentanyl crisis," she tweeted.

Spokesperson Const. Lorraine Edwards said police used warrants to
search "numerous" dispensaries last week, but added the service would
not reveal how many sites were raided, the affected locations or if
anyone was charged. She would not say why police withheld that

As of January, there were at least 46 operating illegal pot shops in
Hamilton. As of last October, police had raided, seized product and
laid charges at 10 outlets in total, with nine of them reopening.

Tamara Hirsh of Pacifico said the dispensary's Westdale and James
Street North locations were raided late last week, but have reopened.
Hirsh said via email she believed the raids are happening on
government orders ahead of marijuana legalization expected in July.
The province has said it will only allow storefront recreational pot
sales from LCBO-run outlets.

"If they think this will make a dent in the (46 existing dispensaries)
stores in Hamilton, they're wrong. Just wait to see how many stores
we're going to have over the next few months leading up to
legalization and then even more to come beyond that," she wrote.

Clint Younge of MMJ said all three of his medical marijuana
dispensaries - on Hess Street, Ottawa Street and Upper James Street -
were raided last Thursday. All reopened as of Sunday. "It sucks for
us, but more for our patients ... For certain people who are really
sick, that is not a good situation to be in," said Younge Monday.

At the same time, Younge stressed police were "courteous" and
"understanding" during the raids, which resulted in marijuana and
computers being seized. He posted on Facebook asking customers and
others not to take out their frustration on officers "who are just
doing their job."

Younge said he believes working with municipal councils is the best
way to convince provincial and federal decision-makers to legalize and
regulate existing storefront pot shops. He said raids have "backfired"
across the country, adding Vancouver eventually opted to license its
indie dispensaries. "We need to stop looking at this as a fight; we
need to talk about bridging the gap in understanding," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt