Toronto officials using concrete blocks to close illegal cannabis storefronts

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In a desperate effort to stop illegal cannabis storefronts from operating in the city, Toronto officials have resorted to placing massive concrete blocks in front of the entrances to black market cannabis shops.

Law enforcement have had difficulty closing many of the illicit shops since cannabis was legalized in Canada last October, and after many failed warnings and raids, officials decided more extreme measures need to be taken.

“This has proven to be a bit more of a substantial tactic,” said Mark Sraga, Toronto’s director of investigation services for municipal licensing and standards.

The first illegal dispensary this method was used on was a dispensary near Yonge and Bloor streets a few weeks ago in May.

“We did an initial enforcement action at this location several weeks ago,” said Sraga. “The operators chose to ignore that.”

Sraga told sources that they initially took measures so that no one could enter back into the dispensary including changing the locks but the operators were able to break in and continue selling cannabis. That’s when law enforcement decided they needed to take more extreme measures.

“This is the first location where we had employed this type of methodology… A few days later, we did another illegal storefront where we also places concrete blocks in front of the doors to prevent unauthorized entry into those premises.”

Not everyone agrees with the extreme tactics. Criminal defense lawyer Kendra Stanyon told sources that since some of these illegal dispensaries double as living spaces, barricading the entrances could leave people homeless. This has actually stopped police from being able to fully close illegal dispensaries as a stipulation in the Ontario Cannabis Control Act bars officials to remove people from dispensaries that are also living spaces.

This stipulation will not last however as the province legislature has passed a bill to close that loophole in the system.

“We have some concerns on what this will mean for families,” said NDP Member of Provincial Parliament Jeff Burch. “Cannabis is currently legal, and while the illegal sale of cannabis should be prohibited, giving the ability for a family to be expelled from their home because a family member—or worse, a visitor—engages in an illegal activity is unthinkable.”

Sraga, however, believes that people are not actually living in their dispensaries and those who are saying they are only do so to prevent their store from closing.

“Going forward, a residential property that’s being used to sell cannabis illegally, we will also be ble to do barring of entry at those places,” said Sraga.

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