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Lack of cooperation a roadblock for police investigating marijuana dispensary robberies

Last Updated Jan 5, 2017 at 6:55 pm EDT

For the second time in three weeks, an illegal marijuana dispensary has been the target of an armed robbery in Toronto, but police appear to be the ones handcuffed by a lack of cooperation.

On Dec. 21, a Canna Clinic dispensary on Ossington Avenue was held up by four masked men. Even though rattled witnesses reported the crime to police the next day, no one from the dispensary came forward, making a police investigation difficult.

On Wednesday night, a Cannabis Culture dispensary at Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue was held up, reportedly at gunpoint. Police were called, but they say employees aren’t cooperating, offering only vague details.

“The information that they’re not giving us makes it difficult for us to proceed, because we need to know what happened,” said Const. Craig Brister.

“We are talking about men who reportedly have firearms. This is something that needs to be dealt with.”

Some business owners near the Cannabis Culture in the Riverside neighbourhood are expressing safety concerns after Wednesday night’s stickup.

“I thought they had been raided, and then I remembered hearing a lot of dispensaries have been robbed, and I thought immediately, there’s a lot of safety issues,” said a nearby cafe owner named Marie. “Why rob a bank when you can go to a dispensary now, and there’s no protection?”

All storefront marijuana dispensaries are currently illegal and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged local police forces to continue to enforce the law while his government drafts legislation to legalize and regulate recreational weed.

That legislation is expected to be tabled this spring.

Toronto police raided 43 dispensaries as part of Project Claudia in late May, arresting 90 people and laying 186 trafficking charges.

Some dispensaries closed shop, but many reopened following the raids and some charges have already been dismissed in court.