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Public Prosecutor Zealots Push For Toronto Police Raids

Ted Smith | Cannabis Digest

Everyone knows by now that Toronto police raided 43 cannabis dispensaries on Thurs May 26 but it is still not clear to everyone who influenced the chief of police in his decision to create Project Claudia.  Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are all washing their hands clean from the decision making process.  Tweed, a Licensed Producer, is apparently training Toronto police how to determine whether or not a suspect is in possession of cannabis legally obtained by an LP versus black market herb, giving many reason to believe large LPs are pushing for police action on illegal dispensaries.  But aside from the police, who always seem keen to arrest people, who pushed for these raids?

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The real accomplice in these raids in the little known Public Prosecution Services of Canada.  This is the group mentioned by chief Mark Saunders in the press conference but those asking questions did not focus on it, instead pointing to political pressure as the reason for the sudden heavy show of force.  Clearly these raids would never have occurred if the PPSC was not fully in support of spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money seeking convictions for both trafficking cannabis and possession of proceeds of crime.

This is not the first time the PPSC had pushed for criminal charges in cases that have a questionable likelihood of success of conviction and where the public interest is not clearly in support of seeking convictions.  In the case of Owen Smith, former head baker of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, it was obvious at several points that the PPSC is out of control in its relentless pursuit of cannabis convictions.  After appealing the case all of the way to the Supreme Court of Canada they lost a unanimous decision that forced the government to make changes that should have been implemented after they lost in the lower courts.  Instead of dropping the case before trial, leaving the law unchallenged, these lawyers pushed their frail arguments before the courts as far as they could until the whole country could see how profoundly backward the medical cannabis programs are.

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So what is the PPSC?  According to their webpage:

“The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.”

“The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director is premised on the principles of respect for the independence of the prosecution function and the need to consult on important matters of general interest.”

“Safeguarding the Director’s independence is the requirement that all instructions from the Attorney General be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the Director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in, or assume conduct of, a case.”

maxresdefaultSince nothing has appeared in the Gazette there has been no formal efforts on behalf of the federal Liberals to pressure the PPSC for police raids on dispensaries, nor do other levels of government have direct influence on crown lawyers.  On the flipside, it does not appear that the director of the PPSC informed the AG that these raids were planned.  If the AG, Jody Wilson-Raybould, was contacted it is unlikely she would have agreed to raid less than half the dispensaries in one city without directly crown lawyers to shut them all down across the entire
country.

The same sudden rash of raids on dispensaries happened in Naniamo, BC late last year, with 3 of 11 clubs getting robbed under the guise of a warrant in one day.  All of the clubs reopened soon after the raids and that city is now preparing to license dispensaries, due in part to public pressure in support of storefront clubs.  It does not seem like any trials will even start as a result of these raids, despite the PPSC being fully supportive of each one.

With legislation to legalize cannabis less a year away, the federal Liberals are looking very weak for dragging their feet while so much police and court time is being used prosecuting people for crimes that will be soon become highly sought after jobs.  If the Liberals want to earn any respect from the public on this issue, they need to reign in the director in charge of the Public Prosecution Services of Canada before more police raids and lengthy trials waste valuable government resources hurting people helping patients.  Letting zealous crown lawyers and police that care little about human rights set the tone for legalization is making Justin Trudeau look very bad.

http://www.ppsc-sppc.gc.ca/eng/bas/index.html#mandate

Article source Cannabis Digest

WHO’S BLOWING POT SMOKE IN JOHN TORY’S EAR?

Before Thursday’s police raids, the city was working on regs to license pot dispensaries, so what gives? The answer: follow the money.

BY ENZO DIMATTEO

MAY 29, 2016 | Now Magazine

Screen shot from John Tory's appearance on CP24 May 25, where he made his pitch for busting pot dispensaries. No, that's not a roach between his thumb and index finger.
Screen shot from John Tory’s appearance on CP24 May 25, where he made his pitch for busting pot dispensaries. No, that’s not a roach between his thumb and index finger.

It looked like Toronto police had invited media for munchies Friday.

The press conference at police headquarters to announce details of the cops’ raids on pot dispensaries had all the elements of a carefully-choreographed attempt by the cops to strike fear into the hearts of Torontonians – with marijuana-laced lollipops, candies, chocolate and cookies. All of which elicited a predictable question from one of the more, um, out-to-lunch among the media horde about whether police had investigated the possibility of such edibles getting into the hands of children. Shock and horror.

Chief Mark Saunders said there was no such evidence. Nor was there any evidence of the products on display posing a danger to consumers. Yet, the chief insisted Thursday’s busts of some 40-plus dispensaries across the city – where 269 kilos of dry leaf was also seized – were carried out with the health of consumers in mind. And not in the name of some new chapter in the war on weed as the feds figure out how to legalize it.

Saunders says the cops were also responding to community complaints and concerns about “community safety.” Where have we heard that before?

Thankfully for the handful of pot activists who crashed the presser, Saunders didn’t get a free ride on that one. Just who are the cops trying to protect anyway?

Certainly not medpot patients who are now going to have to go back onto the black market, “in the back alleys,” as one protester at police headquarters put it, for their supply. Or, is it the interests of licensed medpot producers with Bay Street connections, the same ones providing training to Toronto police on the ins and outs of medpot laws, that the cops (and our big biz friendly mayor) are watching out for? Strange days have found us.

Saunders says he was not “politically pressured” to carry out the raids, just in case there was any doubt. Hard to believe, though, when you consider Mayor John Tory has been warning for the last couple of weeks about lowering the boom. The city sent strongly-worded letters to landlords renting space to pot businesses warning of $50,000 fines and that they would be shutdown, even as the city was supposed to be working on regs to license dispensaries.

Indeed, with all the popping off about the recent increase in gunplay in the city, this latest bit of reefer madness provides a timely smokescreen for Tory and Saunders. The idea wasn’t lost on the pro-cop Sun, or Tory’s former campaign adviser, Nick Kouvalis, who took to Twitter to offer the opinion police should probably be focusing their efforts on real drug dealers, you know, the ones with guns. But as to the why now, the answer is a little more complicated.

It’s pretty safe to say that the chances of the 186 drug-related charges laid by Toronto police against 90 people (for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and 71 charges related to proceeds of crime) have little chance of sticking once legalization arrives. By the looks of it, most of the dispensaries busted were selling to customers with legit prescriptions from doctors. If the idea was to go after the “alarming” proliferation of “bogus” operations, as Tory called them, selling to anyone who walks in the door, then why bust businesses selling weed to medpot users authorized by Health Canada?

Saunders was asked about that. His (somewhat inarticulate) answer was that “their intentions may be well-served, but at the end of the day it’s unlawful. Where’s the marijuana coming from? We don’t know.”

It’s not clear if Saunders meant to suggest the weed being sold by dispensaries to legit patients is being supplied by the black market. Most of it, in fact, comes from licensed producers. Only, not the 30 or so licensed producers, of LPs, with Bay Street connections authorized by the Harper government to sell weed to patients. But independent growers licensed to grow weed by Health Canada under the old medpot regime, known as MMAR. And therein lies the legal gray area.

Licensed producers say these independent growers are not authorized to sell weed to dispensaries.

“Our concerns with dispensaries are that they provide a product that hasn’t been tested and comes from an unknown source,” argues Mark Zekulin, president of Canopy Growth Corporation (Tweed), the country’s largest LP. “Most claim that they purchase from MMAR growers to prove that they are operating legitimately but no provisions of the MMAR allowed for resale. In fact, illegal diversion from the MMAR was the main reason the program was shuttered in favour of a regulated production system.”

Except, in February, a B.C. court judge ruled unconstitutional the newer medpot regime brought in by the Harper government, known as MMPR, which authorizes only Health Canada licensed producers to sell weed. Specifically the court struck down the provision in MMPR prohibiting patients from growing pot for personal use, essentially blowing up the monopoly enjoyed by Health Canada authorized LPs.

The court also found the regulations were unconstitutional because their effect was to limit supply and therefore access to medpot patients.

Which brings us back to the whys and wherefores of the city’s crackdown on dispensaries. To find the answer to that one we need only follow the money. Isn’t that always the case when drugs are involved?

One pot entrepreneur who called NOW’s offices as the busts were being carried out Thursday, let’s call him Felix, says the raids have much to do with Health Canada authorized LPs feeling the financial burn from storefront competition.

Adding smoke to that speculation is the somewhat cozy relationship between LPs and police. Tweed, for example, provides training to Toronto police on the ins and outs of medpot laws.

Zukelin says, “Tweed provides a great deal of training to police forces, but the purpose is to protect our patients and ensure that police understand the legal system so if our patients are stopped, police have the training and education to understand the legal rights of patients. Full stop.”

Zukelin adds that the decision to raid storefront dispensaries “have nothing to do with us.”

The timing was nevertheless curious. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence then that Tweed chair and CEO Bruce Linton was at City Hall last week, just 48 hours before the raids were carried out, to announce a new “compassionate pricing” regime of $5 per gram and same-day delivery of its product.

From Felix’s perspective, Thursday’s raids are a timely “clearing of the field” for Ontario licensed producers, who’re losing something like $5 million a week in potential profits to dispensaries raking in between $30,000 and $60,000 on a good weekend. Which may explain why licensed producers are now considering opening up their own storefront operations – dispensaries without product – to bring in more customers off the street.

It typically takes up to two weeks for medpot users to get their supply in the mail from Health Canada licensed producers, one of the reasons dispensaries have popped up and are preferred by medpot users. Another is product quality. Licensed producers have gotten mixed reviews for their bud. Storefront operations also allow patients to see, touch and smell the product they’re buying.

Zukelin counters that licensed producers “provide information on the scent and appearance of the bud so people can make a decision between the dozens of products we have.” He says prices are lower, too, (“as low as $4.80 a gram”) and the product is delivered to your door free so that “people can try a few out and find the one that works for them.”

Making Thursday’s crackdown more hazy is the fact the city was supposed to be working on regulations for dispensaries, like they have in Vancouver, where the operations pay a licensing fee and are required to be a certain distance from schools.

At least, that seemed like the plan when Tory appointed Joe Cressy chair of the city’s Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. On Monday, May 30, Toronto’s Board of Health is scheduled to debate a framework for legal pot.

But it appears that Cressy and the mayor may have had a parting of the ways on the issue.

Cressy plans to table a motion at the Board’s meeting calling on the feds “to provide immediate guidance on how cities should approach non-medical possession and sale of Cannabis based on a public health approach, rather than simply a criminal justice one.”

“This is a national issue, not just a Toronto one,” Cressy said in a statement. “We can’t arrest our way to a solution.” Apparently, the city is intent on trying anyway.

@enzodimatteo

Article source Now Toronto

‘I didn’t know it was illegal’: Toronto pot-shop owner says she was blindsided by police raids

‘I thought when Justin Trudeau said it was going to be legal, it was going to be legal’

CBC News

Hallelujah, who already has a dispensary in British Columbia, opened her Toronto location in March, not long after Justin Trudeau announced he was ready to move on legalizing the sale of marijuana. (CBC)
Hallelujah, who already has a dispensary in British Columbia, opened her Toronto location in March, not long after Justin Trudeau announced he was ready to move on legalizing the sale of marijuana. (CBC)

Aamra Hallelujah thought it was a good time to open a marijuana dispensary in Toronto — that is until five officers busted open the door of her shop and placed her and one of her employees under arrest.

Hallelujah’s storefront dispensary, Up Cafe, was among 43 such locations raided by Toronto Police on Thursday, when 90 people were arrested and slapped with a total of 186 charges. The raids also saw 269 kilograms of dried marijuana and a large quantity of cookies and other marijuana edibles seized.

It was a terrifying ordeal, Hallelujah said, especially because she now faces criminal charges for what she says is the first time.

“I’ve never even had a parking ticket,” she told CBC News.

Hallelujah, who already has a dispensary in British Columbia, opened her Toronto location in March, not long after Justin Trudeau announced he was ready to move on legalizing the sale of marijuana. But as Canadians await the specifics of that legislation, Hallelujah said she was blindsided by the raids in this city.

“I said [to them] I really don’t know it was illegal. I thought when Justin Trudeau said it was going to be legal, it was going to be legal.”

Aamra Hallelujah's storefront dispensary, Up Cafe, was among 43 such locations raided by Toronto Police on Thursday, when 90 people were arrested and slapped with a total of 186 charges. (CBC)
Aamra Hallelujah’s storefront dispensary, Up Cafe, was among 43 such locations raided by Toronto Police on Thursday, when 90 people were arrested and slapped with a total of 186 charges. (CBC)

‘There’s all sorts of things that can happen by mail’

Dispensary owners aren’t the only ones caught in legal limbo — their customers are too.

Jeff Dorazio is one of them. He has a prescription for medical marijuana stemming from a painful nerve condition called neuralgia.

But rather than ordering in the drug by mail from a designated medical supplier and waiting for it to be shipped to him, Dorazio says he prefers to go to a shop in person so that he can see what exactly he’s purchasing.

“There’s all sorts of things that can happen by mail. If I don’t have it, my neuralgia cycles back in it’s very painful. I’m off work.”

“Here, there are different strains,” he said. “I know ones that are, say, maybe higher in CBD (cannabidiol) than THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). They do the job but I don’t have to be stoned. I can smoke one in the morning and it’s not going to knock me on my tail,” Dorazio said.

Toronto’s Police Chief Mark Saunders told CBC News on Friday that the raids came as a result of talking to community members worried about the number of dispensaries popping up.

But after Thursday’s raid many are wondering why some dispensaries caught the ire of police and others did not.

Rather than ordering the drug by mail from a designated medical supplier and waiting for it to be shipped, Jeff  says he prefers to go to a shop in person so that he can see what exactly he's purchasing. (CBC)
Rather than ordering the drug by mail from a designated medical supplier and waiting for it to be shipped, Jeff says he prefers to go to a shop in person so that he can see what exactly he’s purchasing. (CBC)

A location called the Green Room on Spadina Avenue was all but turned upside down for example, while another Green Room on Dundas Street remained open for business on Saturday, at least until the afternoon.

Police raids ‘not fighting real crime’

For her part, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne has acknowledged the confusion resulting from a lack of clarity around pot regulations, saying, “We’re a bit in the weeds…But I do think that as the federal government gets its legislation and its protocols in place, it will be clearer then what the provinces need to follow through with.”

But to the head of Toronto’s Dispensary Coalition Adolfo Gonzales, operating storefront dispensaries is a victimless crime and raiding them is distracting from what he calls the city’s bigger issues.

Head of Toronto's Dispensary Coalition Adolfo Gonzales, operating storefront dispensaries is a victimless crime and raiding them is distracting from what he calls the city's bigger issues. (CBC)
Head of Toronto’s Dispensary Coalition Adolfo Gonzales, operating storefront dispensaries is a victimless crime and raiding them is distracting from what he calls the city’s bigger issues. (CBC)

“That day, our police force was not fighting real crime because they were putting well-intentioned young people in jail.”

For Saunders, if dispensary operators are concerned about helping people, they should be applying for the necessary licenses.

That’s something Hallelujah says she simply can’t afford. Besides, she says, if legalization is already in the works, having a medical license may soon not be a requirement for all pot vendors.

For now though, her shop remains closed. She expects to learn more about the charges against her when she’s due in court on June 15.

Article source CBC News

Toronto’s pot shop crackdown was long overdue. Here’s why

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