Illegal pot shops hard to weed out


Toronto cops and city bylaw enforcement officials were out in force on Tuesday morning engaged in another game of wack-a-mole with unlicensed pot shop operator CAFE (Cannabis and Fine Edibles) on Harbord.

At 9:30 am, about 13 Toronto police officers and a smaller number of city officials descended on the location with a flatbed truck carrying more than a dozen large concrete barriers. The plan was to barricade the shop to make it physically impossible to get in.

This is a new tactic being used by the city to make sure that illegal shops stay closed – issuing tickets and fines to illegal pot shop operators has failed to keep them closed for long. Bylaw officers say there are currently 12 illegal dispensaries operating in T.O., down from 90 last year.

The new tactic, however, didn’t pan out as expected on Tuesday. The mechanical arm used to lift the concrete barriers into place was unable to negotiate around the street’s overhead wire. The store remained closed for the day, but was open for business the following morning.

The customer service is most excellent, too.

When a CAFE shop has been ordered closed, its patrons have been provided transportation to the next available shop, in “fancy black SUVs,” according to one bystander I interviewed.

Toronto bylaw enforcement director Mark Sraga says he’s frustrated.

“We know they are not going to close up and go away, because they have done it in other locations where we’ve done closure orders and barring of entry. There’s too much money in this.” 

But Sraga says, “We are making tremendous progress on the issue of compliance. And hopefully in the near future, when the new provincially licensed stores start opening that will help.”

Right now, Toronto has five licensed weed shops. CAFE has four locations. It’s Fort York location has been closed twice, the Bloor West has been closed once. 

Sraga says, “These people are selling illegal product. They are selling both edibles as well as dried cannabis. People don’t know what they are consuming. They have no idea. As well, I would suspect, and this is my own personal opinion, that there is a criminal element behind this if you look at the kind of revenue this kind of operation is making. This simply just can’t be allowed to carry on in the city.”

Yet they do.

Erik Tanner is a writer and co-author of Highlights: A Trippy History of Cannabis now available at Amazon Kindle.




Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content