CAFE on Toronto’s Bloor Street W. is one of many unlicensed cannabis dispensaries that the city has been trying to put out of business since legalization came into effect last fall. But despite being raided multiple times last week, it’s back to business as usual for pot purveyors.
While the city scrambles to shut down illicit retail locations, CAFE is taking advantage of a legal loophole in Ontario cannabis laws that prevent the city from barring the entrances to the building–effectively allowing the business to stay open and continue operation after being raided by police.
Interim closure rules in Ontario’s Cannabis Control Act dictate that after a raid, “No person shall, (a) remain on the premises after being required to vacate the premises under subsection (1); or (b) re-enter the premises on the same day the person is required to vacate, unless a police officer authorizes the person to re-enter.”
The caveat: The rule “does not apply in respect of persons residing in the premises.”
As a part of one of the raids on the Bloor location last week, CityNews reports that the city sent contractors to weld the shop’s windows and doors shut–but the next day, they were called in to undo that same welding.
CAFE’s operators complained to authorities that the basement of the building was an individual’s private residence, and as such, the city had no right to seal the doors.
Store operators and their lawyer were present when the contractors returned, and the store was back up and running shortly thereafter.
Toronto’s director of investigation services, Mark Sraga, disputes the claim that the basement was anyone’s home, claiming that there was “no sign” of any tenants residing on the premises and that the entries had been barred before there was any mention of a resident.
Sraga says that when the contractors arrived to remove the barricades that had been installed the day before, they found dispensary staff selling illicit cannabis in front of the shop, having already broken in.
Sraga warned of “aggressive enforcement” earlier this month for unlicensed stores that continued to hock their wares and flout cannabis legislation.
The Fort York location has adopted a similar strategy to its Bloor W. counterpart. When subject to multiple raids last week, operators also claimed that part of the building was a private residence, pointing to a set of bunkbeds in a back room.
The cannabis was seized, but the doors remained open.
For now, CAFE lives to shop cannabis another day.
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