Pot activists angry as Toronto council defers debate on dispensaries
JEFF GRAY – CITY HALL REPORTER
The Globe and Mail
The saga of Toronto’s crackdown on pot shops took another twist on Monday, as city council’s licensing committee put off a scheduled debate on possible new rules for medical marijuana dispensaries and turned away a group of cannabis activists who had shown up to speak, leaving them seething.
About a dozen pot-dispensary owners and marijuana activists jumped up and shouted at the six-member council committee as its chairman, Councillor Cesar Palacio, explained that the 5-1 vote to defer the item meant they could not speak. Only Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who has aligned himself with the pot-dispensary movement, voted against the deferral.
“People are dying every day, calling my shop, crying for their family members,” yelled Brandy Zurborg, co-owner of the Queens of Cannabis medical-marijuana dispensary, one of dozens caught in up in last month’s sweep by police and bylaw officials.
Medical marijuana user Jesse Beardsworth, who said she lives with a degenerative disease and spoke to reporters while leaning on a walker, was angry at being denied the chance to speak.
“I am not actually like most people. I actually would wish my illness upon them [the committee members] for an extended period of time so that they would know what it is like to live like this,” Ms. Beardsworth said.
In the aftermath of last month’s raids, in which 43 marijuana dispensaries across the city were busted for zoning infractions and drug charges, some pot providers have defiantly reopened. But according to a survey by city staff, 34 were still shuttered as of earlier this month. Last week, police busted four more, arresting 23 people.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who moved Monday’s deferral motion, was shouted down by pot advocates as he told reporters afterward that it was up to the federal government to sort out its pot policy before the city drafts its own regulations.
The city’s many storefront pot dispensaries are all illegal. The federal government allows patients access to medical marijuana, but only from licensed producers, via mail order. Courts have deemed that system unconstitutional and too restrictive, giving Ottawa until Aug. 24 to rewrite its rules. Pot advocates say the system is flawed, and many patients dealing with chronic pain rely instead on storefront dispensaries. The federal Liberals have also pledged to legalize recreational marijuana, with legislation expected next year.
On May 12, Mayor John Tory asked licensing officials to look at rules to keep marijuana storefronts away from schools and limit their number, like those Vancouver has implemented. And he urged police and bylaw officials to crack down on existing pot dispensaries.
Monday wasn’t the first time pot-dispensary owners have been denied a hearing at city hall. On May 19, before the wave of police busts, pot advocates showed up en masse to speak to the same licensing committee. But they were told then to come back in June.
The city’s licensing department did not give councillors much to discuss on Monday. A report from licensing chief Tracey Cook advises that Toronto lacks legal jurisdiction to regulate pot and recommends revisiting the idea of drafting any new regulations in October, after city officials have assessed Ottawa’s coming medical marijuana rules.
Councillor Josh Matlow, who voted for the deferral, said he understood that those who showed up to speak would be upset. But he said hearing them out would serve no purpose, unless the committee had a set of proposed rules before them: “Why on Earth would this committee spend the entire day listening to deputations … when there’s nothing that it actually is voting on?”
Article source Globe & Mail
Toronto City Officials Oppose Mayor Tory on the Legality of Dispensaries
By Jon Hiltz on
The City of Toronto, the police, and dozens of dispensary owners across the Greater Toronto Area appear stuck in a costly game of cat and mouse where lawyers win billable hours, and patients lose safe and affordable access.
While this political and social drama unfolds, the police continue to pursue criminal charges with little or no chance of conviction because of a precedent created by the Allard decision. The 2016 Federal Ruling found that regulations forcing Canadians to obtain marijuana from licensed producers via mail-order impaired patients’ health and safety and were, therefore, unconstitutional. In February, the court set a six-month deadline for the new Liberal government to amend the current system or develop a new one, which in theory means that dispensaries have a grey area to operate with for the time being.
Toronto City Council, Jim Karygiannis, has been going against his colleagues and Mayor Tory on this issue, with much fanfare from cannabis patients and dispensary owners alike. He took the time to speak with Marijuana.com on his latest efforts to get the city and police to leave these businesses alone.
“There are absolutely no rules on how dispensaries should be regulated.” Karygiannis shares the opinion of many, that the Allard decision earlier this year in Vancouver called on the government to put up or shut up in regards to regulating the ways Canadians can buy their cannabis. That means until August of this year there’s no real reason why police should be allowed to conduct raids of any kind.
“We have a vacuum of regulations. Taking people to court while the vacuum of regulations exists can only amount to two things. One, taxpayers money being spent unwisely. Two, all these cases will be thrown out of court.” Karygiannis goes on to outline the endless list of costs that are involved with prosecuting these cases with almost no hope of ‘success’ for the prosecutors who are seeking a conviction.
“A vacuum [in this case] is something that doesn’t give clear action, so people sometimes tend to take that opportunity and set up what they want, which behooves the government to act quickly and bring some rules down.” Karygiannis is in favour of the city enforcing by-laws such as not being close to schools and other locations that minors will frequent and being wheelchair accessible for example.
“If you want to do things right you call the stakeholders and say okay, where do you see the dispensaries going? There are other cities that have dispensaries, why have we not consulted with them to say what have you been doing? What’s working?” Karygiannis is also convinced that the police are simply reacting to the Mayor wanting something to be done. “The Mayor sends a letter to the committee as and soon as they Mayor sends it to the committee then we are reactive.”
Karygiannis says the first step is to stop police action so a dialogue can be created. “Let’s stop wasting taxpayers money by doing more raids, because all of this is going to be thrown out. It’s going to make the lawyers rich and the people that need cannabis will not be able to have accessibility to it.”
The Councillor is going to continue his efforts on this by talking to the many involved. “I’m talking to the stakeholders. I’m planning on holding some sort of get together where I can listen to the people.”
Eventually, marijuana will be available legally for all adult Canadians. Hopefully, it will also be accessible.
Article source Marijuana.com