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Police raid CAFE dispensary on Harbord Street, seizing bags of weed and edibles

Last Updated Jul 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm EST

Toronto police and City of Toronto bylaw officers raided an illegal marijuana dispensary on Harbord Street near Spadina Avenue on Tuesday morning, removing numerous bags of dried cannabis and edible products, along with an undisclosed amount of cash.

There’s no word yet on charges.

A person named Jeff Brodie claims he lives in an upstairs apartment at 104 Harbord St., where a CAFE dispensary was operating.

But an officer told him that on a judge’s order the property was being seized by the city.

Officers helped him retrieve some personal items, but he was not allowed back inside.

Brodie maintains he is unaffiliated with CAFE and is now homeless.

“I’m upset,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen to me. I don’t have anything to do with (CAFE) downstairs. I work, I’m a subcontractor. I’ve got cheap rent here. I can’t find anywhere else to go tonight, I’m sleeping on a park bench. And this is what the city has done to me, it’s not right.”

Police raiding a CAFE dispensary on Harbord Street on July 9, 2019. CITYNEWS/Shauna Hunt

 

The provincial government recently closed a loophole that saw some dispensaries stay open by claiming their business locations were also serving as residences.

Attorney Selwyn Pieters says he is representing Brodie and calls the new provincial legislation unconstitutional.

“We will be filing an application in 24 hours challenging the constitutionally of that legislation,” he said.

“He (Brodie) lawfully lives up there and my understanding is this morning he was forcefully removed from his (home) by Toronto police and City of Toronto officials which we feel is unprecedented, unnecessary and violates his rights,” Pieters added.

Another CAFE dispensary on Fort York Boulevard was previously raided by police numerous times, only to reopen shortly after.

Eventually officers installed a large metal door in front of the location, but it was later removed.

In some instances police have resorted to placing large concrete blocks in front of dispensaries

On Tuesday, police brought cement blocks to the Harbord location (pictured below), but didn’t end up installing them citing logistical reasons. Instead, the front doors were bolted shut.

“We’ve executed our authorities under the Cannabis Control Act,” said Mark Sraga, director of investigation services for municipal licensing and standards. “We issued a closure order, we vacated the property, we seized all the illegal product and cash and now we are in the midst of doing a barring of entry of the property.”

Sraga said charges would be laid if anyone attempts re-entry, but he admitted it’s not possible to guarantee that the store would not be up and running again, estimating that the location makes more than $30,000 per day.

Despite the challenges in permanently shuttering some dispensaries, Sraga says the black market is slowly being nullified.

“We have 12 illegal cannabis stores at the moment operating in the city,” he noted. “Prior to legalization we had well over 90 illegal stores operating. So we are making tremendous progress on achieving compliance.”

Police raiding a CAFE dispensary on Harbord Street on July 9, 2019. CITYNEWS/Shauna Hunt

Area resident Susan Purvis vented her frustration with the city’s inability to close down the CAFE location on Harbord, where she once ran a small business. She still lives in the area and says the dispensary is “destroying our neighbourhood.”

“Why can’t they shut it down and keep it shut down? If I make illegal booze and opened a store right here and try to sell it, they would shut me down in three minutes, no questions asked. But illegal cannabis selling? No problem.”

“All they have a licence for — is making money.”