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Canada cracks down on illegal medical cannabis shops

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Toronto: The Globe and Mail reports that illegal medical cannabis dispensaries are feeling the heat in Canada. More than half of the 83 ‘dispensaries’ in Toronto were raided by police, and 45 store owners have been charged with municipal violations. 78 business premises owners have received warnings for leasing their shops to cannabis stores.

What’s the problem?

Simply put, it’s not legal to have a recreational or medical cannabis shop in Canada. As the law stands, it’s mail order only, and authorities are horrified at the number of illegal outlets that have mushroomed since forthcoming cannabis legalisation was announced.

That doesn’t mean to say it will always be that way, but regulations for medical cannabis shops are still in the making and premises will have to be legally licensed to carry out their business. At time of writing, no regulatory framework is in place, and existing laws prohibiting the sale of medical cannabis from shops still exists.


Vancouver also has the bull by the horns

30 medical cannabis outlets have been closed in Vancouver – but authorities are not being draconian. Around 24 stores have full legal licensing, and there’s been a consultation process, with business owners agreeing not to sell THC-rich edibles that kids might mistake for a simple yummy snack. A further 61 illegal stores are open to prosecution.

The approach has so far been very lenient, with unlicensed recreational and medical cannabis stores only being targeted if suspected of selling to minors or being involved in organized crime.

Store owners simply re-open the next day as if nothing had happened, but despite being in contravention of current law, many store owners say that they think they’ll get away with any charges laid since legalization is just round the corner.

An overly optimistic viewpoint?

Although some legal specialists think that pot shop owners may be able to fight a constitutional battle, the fact remains: they are in contravention of the law as it stands. And the stores probably aren’t just selling medical cannabis to patients in need. They’re doing business as if recreational pot were already legal. It isn’t. Case closed.

Or so it would seem – but analysts point out that the Canadian medical cannabis mail order only policy has been declared ‘too restrictive’ by courts. One lawyer says regulation and prohibition are two different things and is confident his constitutional challenge on behalf of cannabis shops will stand.

Landlords threatened with fines

City landlords have been threatened with fines as high as $25,000 a day if illegal pot shops remain open – whether they sell medical cannabis or not. As a result, some of the stores have closed voluntarily with shop owners asking landlords to appeal to mayors and local councils.

Outrunning the law

Although dispensary owners say that police action is nothing less than “bullying”, it’s clear that they have jumped the gun in terms of ensuring the legality of their operations. Medical cannabis patients can and do get their cannabis via mail order, and recreational users will have to wait for the full regulatory framework to be in place before they can buy marijuana legally.

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What’s your take?

Medicinal cannabis should be a non-negotiable – and it’s understandable if people break the law in order to get it. But should recreational cannabis users and illegal pot shops get amnesty? How urgent is the ‘need’?


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