Lead image via
An ongoing battle between Toronto authorities and the owner of a chain of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries came to a head late last week, as the two warring sides played real world tetris with a pile of massive concrete barricades.
According to the Toronto Star, the CAFE dispensary chain was the latest set of illicit pot shops to feel the wrath of the Toronto bylaw enforcement police and their favorite retail deterrent — comically large stacks of concrete blocks.
Toronto police installed their first storefront barricade last month and said they would continue to do so as long as illicit pot shops undermined local legalization laws. In addition to skirting taxes and safety testing requirements, Canada’s unlicensed dispensaries do not follow the country’s current ban on edibles and other specific cannabis products.
For owners of the CAFE — Cannabis and Fine Edibles — dispensary chain, though, even concrete blocks couldn’t stand in the way of pot sales, at least for one extra day. As soon as the business owners heard that they had been targeted by bylaw enforcement, they hired their own construction company to remove the blocks, opening for business as soon as the sidewalk was clear.
“Yesterday, we witnessed a vigilante interpretation of flawed legislation. This behavior is reckless and embarrassing,” the unnamed owners said in a statement on Friday, before calling the continued enforcement efforts an “addiction to prohibition.”
Toronto bylaw officers immediately sprung into action to reinstall the concrete blocks in front of the Harbord St. location, and said that, in total, they have filed over 70 charges against the CAFE owners.
“This matter is being investigated by the Toronto police. Entering a barred premise is also a contravention under the Cannabis Control Act,” Mark Sraga, the city’s director of bylaw enforcement, told the Star. “The city will continue to take progressive enforcement action against these locations by exercising all authorities under the Cannabis Control Act.”
Even with the concrete blocks in place, CAFE owners did not shut down shop, with multiple reports from City News reporter Adrian Ghobrial showing a luxury SUV transporting customers from the barricaded dispensary to a new location, and dispensary employees selling cannabis out of an apartment building to customers lined up on the street.
The game of cat and mouse became so outlandish that Toronto Mayor John Tory felt compelled to comment on the sidewalk shenanigans.
“The notion of just flagrantly breaking the law over and over and over again to me is — I just can’t even fathom that,” Tory said. “But they will all have their day in court.”
On a whole, Toronto’s efforts to combat unlicensed cannabis dispensaries have been relatively successful, with less than 10 storefronts currently operating, down from almost 40 just last year.
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter