Unanswered questions about Durham cop’s unlicensed weed shop

A member of the Durham police board wants answers to why an officer was allowed to co-own an unlicensed marijuana company.

Const. Phil Edgar, a Durham police officer, co-owned a medical marijuana company with the apparent blessing of his police force.

Const. Phil Edgar, a Durham police officer, co-owned a medical marijuana company with the apparent blessing of his police force.

By: Staff | Torstar News Service Published on Sep 11th 2016

A member of the Durham police board wants answers to why an active officer was allowed to co-own a medical marijuana company that is unlicensed and offers customers drug products that are illegal to sell.

“There are questions that I will be asking at the next board meeting,” said Bill McLean, a Pickering councillor and retired Toronto police sergeant, responding to findings of a Torstar investigation into the marijuana company, Living On Inc.

“I think it’s our job as a board to ask those questions and get those answers.”

But McLean might be the only one at Monday’s meeting of the Durham Regional Police Services Board who wants to discuss the controversy.

The police service has steadfastly refused to answer specific questions about what it calls an “employer-employee matter” that is “not open for public discussion.” Roger Anderson, head and spokesman of the board, called it a personnel issue and would not comment further. And the officer himself says it has no place before the civilian body tasked with police oversight.

“It’s nothing to do with the Police Services Board. They don’t oversee anything like this,” Const. Phil Edgar said in an interview.

A recent Torstar investigation found Living On Inc., located on First Nations land in Port Perry, was not licensed by Health Canada.

Its website also advertises various kinds of edible marijuana products — pot peanut brittle, lollypops, a weed-infused chocolate hazelnut spread called “Chrontella” — that are illegal to sell in Canada because the government says they pose a risk of overdose or unintentional ingestion by children.

After Torstar began asking questions, Edgar said he “stepped back” from the marijuana company and is weighing whether he wants to continue a career of policing or branch into the budding medical weed business.

He said he joined the company in December 2015 and filed a request for secondary employment shortly after. He left Living On in July.

Under Ontario law, officers must receive the police chief’s permission to have a second job or have ownership in a company that may appear to be a conflict of interest or interfere with their duties as a cop.

Police board member McLean first raised concerns about the approval of Const. Edgar’s request at a June police board meeting. He was told the Durham force received a legal opinion “that it would be required to approve” Edgar’s ownership of a “marijuana dispensary,” police board records show.

Durham police have not made the legal opinion public.

While continuing not to comment on Const. Edgar’s case, the police force appears to have implied that it did not know about the company’s lack of licence or the illicit goods advertised on Living On’s website.

“While our decision making is subject to limitations in the legislation, the Service would never knowingly approve a request for secondary employment that is illegal,” police spokesman Dave Selby said in a statement.

“At any time, should new facts come to the attention of the Service that would change the context of a secondary employment approval, the Service may take any steps deemed necessary, including revocation of the approval.”

As of Friday, the police force has not revoked its approval of Const. Edgar’s marijuana side job, the officer told Torstar.

Edgar said he was involved only in promotions with the company but, as far as he understands, the company was and continues to be properly licensed.

“From my view, everything Living On was doing was ethical and legal. If we’re helping people, and it’s all ethical and legal, then I have no problem with it,” Edgar previously told Torstar.

While the controversy unfurls within the force, Durham police are quietly cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up in its municipalities.

Storefront medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Canada. In late August, officers delivered letters to dispensaries in Oshawa warning if they continued to participate in “unlawful activity” the force “may take action as authorized by the Criminal Code.”

One dispensary in Oshawa has already shuttered its doors. Employees at another Oshawa shop, 420 Compassion Club, said their customers are patients who need medication and closing down would be turning them to the streets to score.

“They shouldn’t be letting an officer own a shop when they’re sending us a letter saying it’s illegal and making us scared to come to the shop, scared about our freedom,” employee Justin Long said.

Durham police would not say whether its officers also sent a notice to Living On. At a recent visit to the company’s yet-to-open storefront, a sign on the window said it would be opening soon pending a Health Canada inspection.

The drug regulator said storefront medical marijuana shops are illegal and it does not inspect them.

Article source Metro News

Durham cop OK’d to own unlicensed pot shop

Durham police allowed an officer co-own an unlicensed medical weed shop that offers products that are illegal to sell.

Durham police Const. Phil Edgar's Audi R8 is wrapped in green film and emblazoned with the medical marijuana company name, Living On Inc. (JESSE MCLEAN / Toronto Star)

Durham police Const. Phil Edgar’s Audi R8 is wrapped in green film and emblazoned with the medical marijuana company name, Living On Inc. (JESSE MCLEAN / Toronto Star)

By 

A Durham police officer for six months co-owned a medical marijuana company that is not licensed and offers consumers pot brownies and other products the government says are illegal to sell.

And veteran Const. Phil Edgar, who once received a commendation for numerous marijuana busts, did it with the blessing of his police force.

After the Star began asking questions, Edgar said he “stepped back” from the marijuana company — Living On Inc. — and is weighing whether he wants to continue a career of policing or branch into the budding medical weed business.

Durham Regional Police Service refused to answer questions about whether it was appropriate for an active police officer to be involved in this kind of business, and why it approved Edgar’s request to co-own the medical marijuana company.

Living On is a medical marijuana company headquartered on First Nations land in Port Perry. It does not have a licence from Health Canada to sell medical pot.

Its website advertises various kinds of edible marijuana products — pot brownies, gummies, a weed-infused chocolate hazelnut spread called “Chrontella” — that are illegal to sell in Canada because the government says they pose a risk of overdose or unintentional ingestion by children.

“From my view everything Living On was doing was ethical and legal. If we’re helping people, and it’s all ethical and legal, then I have no problem with it,” Edgar said in an interview.

According to a police board document, the Durham force received a legal opinion “that it would be required to approve” Edgar’s ownership of a “marijuana dispensary.”

Under Ontario law, officers must receive the force’s permission to have a second job or have ownership in a company that may appear to be a conflict of interest or interfere with their duties as a cop. In the past, Durham has denied requests from officers looking to get side jobs as bartenders or security guards.

Edgar has been a Durham cop for 22 years. When not on patrol, he is also a businessman who owns a bustling gas station across the street from Living On’s headquarters on the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, of which Edgar is a member.

He lives nearby with two palatial homes nestled along Lake Scugog, the product of what he described as “years of smart investments and good business practices.” He owns a fleet of high-end cars, including an Audi R8 wrapped in green vinyl film emblazoned with the dispensary’s company name.

“I do policing right now because I enjoy helping people,” Edgar said. “I don’t do it for the money.”

A well-liked and respected officer, Edgar once received an award from his force for police work that involved seizing more than $530,000 of marijuana during just seven traffic stops. He said it’s important to make the distinction between medical marijuana and street drugs.

“People are talking about marijuana like it’s a poison to society. People who are using medicinal marijuana are people who are looking for an alternative to the pharmaceutical drugs that aren’t working or are causing negative side effects,” he said. “There are police officers in the province who are using medicinal marijuana.”

Edgar joined Living On in December 2015 and said he filed a secondary employment request with the force around the same time.

The force said it would not discuss the issue of Edgar’s request.

“We view any secondary employment request as an employer-employee matter and therefore not open for public discussion,” police spokesman Dave Selby said in a statement.

He said each request “is reviewed by the service and evaluated based on considerations including case law and the Police Services Act.”

The police chief has the final call on whether a secondary employment is approved.

The Star could not determine what information was available to the force or its lawyers when it approved Edgar’s involvement.

Until recently, Living On’s website stated that the company is “licensed by Health Canada to sell and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.” It has since dropped the claim from its website.

“Dispensaries and other sellers of marijuana who are not licensed under the current law are illegal,” a Health Canada spokeswoman said in a statement.

“These establishments operate outside of the legal framework and provide products from illegal sources that are untested, unregulated and may be unsafe.”

Living On is also offering products that are not approved for sale under current drug laws in Canada.

Despite a 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled medical marijuana patients can consume the drug in any form they choose, Health Canada allows licensed venders to sell the product only as a bud, leaf or oil.

Edibles, such as cookies or gummies, remain illegal to sell, the government said, “because these products may be particularly appealing to children and youth and can pose a risk of overdose or unintentional ingestion.”

Living On’s website requires customers to have a medical marijuana prescription and a membership before they can begin shopping.

While the company lists edibles and other items on its website, Living On does not actually sell medical marijuana products, said one of its co-owners, Kris Khan. Instead, he said it currently just refers customers to other companies that are actually licensed by the government to sell medical marijuana.

“We’re not selling,” Khan said, adding that they don’t take any cut for referrals.

However, Green Penguin Delights, a B.C. company that produces edibles, told the Star that it supplies marijuana products to Living On.

“We don’t sell to the public. We only sell to the dispensaries,” said Green Penguin Delight’s Brina Levitt, explaining that the dispensaries then distribute the products to patients who have valid prescriptions.

Living On’s website lists more than a dozen different edibles under its products page. Khan said in a follow-up text message to the Star that the Green Penguin edibles are “lab tested” and that Living On “will be following the law all the way.”

Const. Edgar said his role with the company was promotional and he had nothing to do with day-to-day operations.

There are only 35 companies licensed by the federal government to produce and sell medical marijuana, that supply by mail close to 70,000 Canadians with fresh or dried buds and cannabis oils.

There are another 400,000 Canadians, according to one academic’s research, who buy their marijuana for medical purposes from the black market, including storefront dispensaries and compassion clubs.

Cracking down on these illegal venders is left to local police.

In Toronto, officers have raided numerous dispensaries and charged the operators with various drug offences. Other cities have taken to regulating the storefront businesses through bylaws and licences.

In Durham region, where Edgar works, police say they are monitoring the dispensaries that continue to pop up in its cities’ cores, trying to corner their own piece of the estimated $80-million medical marijuana market.

It was the high market evaluation that attracted Edgar to Living On in December 2015.

“It’s a new industry that people are changing their views about. It’s going to be decriminalized in this country and the opportunity for an investment such as this is something that intrigued me,” he said.

The officer co-owned the marijuana company with Khan and Rennie Goose, who owns a popular smoke shop wedged between Edgar’s gas station and Living On’s yet-to-open storefront shop.

The focus of the company, said co-owner Khan, is on developing tamper-proof vending machines that patients can use to safely buy their medical marijuana, something they could license to other companies.

Edgar said he left the company as of July 1 to avoid the unnecessary attention it was garnering from the media and others in the force.

“I have to do some serious soul searching to decide: do I stay in the policing industry or do I want to branch out into businesses like this?” he said.

Article source Toronto Star