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Ninety people arrested, 186 charges laid in dispensary raids

Last Updated May 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm EST

Toronto police arrested 90 people and laid 186 trafficking charges after raiding 43 marijuana dispensaries on Thursday.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said Project Claudia is a result of numerous community complaints about the dispensaries.

The dispensaries received a letter from Toronto Police last week saying they were unlawful and were asked to shut down, but only one location actually closed, Saunders said.

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“The edibles are a huge concern for the public safety factor,” said Saunders.

Among the objects seized during the 43 raids, there was 270 kilos of dry cannabis, 30 kg of resin, 25 kg of hash, 27 kg of pills, 73 kg of chocolate, 142 kg of cookies, 129 kg of candies, 101 kg of bars, 135 e-cigarettes, 457 drinks, 127 kg of oils and spreads, and 121 kg of other by-products were seized.

Police arrested 90 people, 186 trafficking charges were given and 71 proceeds of crime charges were laid.

Protesters who attended the press conference on Friday challenged the Chief and demanded proof of the safety factor.

“There is a danger if you don’t where the source is coming from,” responded Saunders. “These locations can’t tell you where it’s coming from, nor what the content is, unless they’re guessing.”

Two of the people arrested were wanted on search warrants and Saunders said only two people currently remain in custody.

“Of the 90 arrested, two are in custody,” Saunders said. “One had an outstanding warrant and another had firearm charges in another province.”

Saunders said that he did not want to impede on anyone trying to get medical marijuana but protesters argued the point, saying patients will have a hard time obtaining medical marijuana now.

A protest was held near police headquarters condemning the raids, starting at 10 a.m.

Those opposed to the raids have questioned the timing, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigning on a promise to legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana. Trudeau has said legalizing marijuana would fix a “failed system” and help remove the “criminal element” linked to the drug.

There were also concerns about the use of police to target dispensaries at all. Now Magazine published a piece detailing 11 things police care less about than dispensaries, including cars parked in bike lanes, Rob Ford, and consistency.

On Thursday, police said the raids were part of a criminal investigation. The drug squad officers were enforcing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Police said they handed out cautions on May 18 and if the dispensaries were still operating illegally, they would be fined.

(To watch this video on mobile, click here)

However, earlier this month, Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash said the investigations of businesses will happen when police receive a complaint or when there is a public safety issue.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for the immediate enforcement of current marijuana laws while the city further studies how to deal with the situation.

Watch a video of the raids below, or click here to view it.

Photos of the raids, and of the police news conference, can be seen in the slideshow below.