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In North America’s constantly evolving legal weed industry, cannabis regulators have long lamented unlicensed pot shops operating outside of local law and undercutting permitted competition. But while cities like Los Angeles and Detroit have increased black market raids in the wake of legalization, Toronto authorities have taken a different, more unique route to combat illicit businesses. 

In a new report from the Toronto Star, it was revealed that the provincial government spent a whopping $361,459.49 on its now-notorious plot to shut down unlicensed pot shops by placing giant concrete barricades in front of the dispensaries. Over the span of last summer, Toronto cops and cannabis regulators blocked off four storefronts with the life-sized Duplos.

But like most cat and mouse games, the conflict among cops, construction contractors, and cannabis sellers didn’t end with the stacks of slate. Unable to access their retail spaces, some pot shops relocated in a matter of days and even opened impromptu marijuana marketplaces on sidewalks next to the blocked buildings.

In the face of those decidedly unsuccessful interdiction attempts, Toronto senior communications adviser Alex Burke made sure to note that the quarter million dollar blockade budget didn’t come from taxpayer pockets — at least not directly. 

“The city has received monies from the provincial government to support the establishment and implementation of an enforcement strategy for cannabis in the city of Toronto,” Burke told The Star.

Despite the nearly year-long battle between black market operators and government regulators, Toronto still has a number of unlicensed pot shops operating freely across the city. But while local officials have moved on from their game of concrete Tetris, law enforcement officers have continued executing raids on unpermitted pot shops, even as recently as last week.

“MLS are still enforcing the [Cannabis Control Act],” Burke said. “All property owners and operators have been charged and are before the courts waiting disposition.”

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