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Pot entrepreneur joins rush to open shops in hot Toronto mar

by papapuff » Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:33 pm

The Globe and Mail


Pot entrepreneur joins rush to open shops in hot Toronto market


MIKE HAGER
The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016

Don Briere already runs the biggest chain of illegal marijuana dispensaries in the country, with 19 locations throughout B.C. Now, he’s expanding eastward, inking deals to open six pot-shop franchises in Toronto.

Sent to prison for once heading British Columbia’s biggest network of marijuana grow operations, Mr. Briere is just one of dozens of entrepreneurs rushing to take advantage of Toronto’s rapid rise as a centre for the illegal storefront sale of cannabis.

Neither the city nor police could provide any data on how many have joined the rush, but academics say the sector has grown from about a dozen tucked-away businesses to roughly 40 locations in less than a year. And industry insiders predict there could be more than 100 in or near Toronto in the next couple of months.

“People are flooding me with requests for franchises,” Mr. Briere said last week while dining with his new partners in Ontario. “I haven’t started advertising here in Toronto, but people have heard about it.”

There is no official tally of dispensaries across Canada. Until recently, an estimated 150 have operated in Canada, most in Vancouver and Victoria.

A month before last fall’s federal election, Health Canada issued cease-and-desist letters to 13 dispensaries across the country, but all those served notice appear to still be operating.

In Vancouver, Mr. Briere expanded aggressively over the past two years as politicians and police looked on. But he could lose most of his stores in the city come April 20 – the international day for pot enthusiasts to celebrate the drug – when Vancouver’s grace period ends for those who can’t secure a new business licence. Of the 176 applicants, only about two dozen are expected to gain one of the licences.

Toronto City Council is months away from considering regulations similar to those passed last June in Vancouver. As legalization looms under the new federal Liberal government, police say they do monitor dispensaries, but have a host of other enforcement priorities.

“It’s all very positive; [politicians] know that they’ve seen the writing on the wall,” Mr. Briere said. “And the police chiefs and the police officers know that they’re saving a ton of time, money and resources not having to deal with marijuana.”

“We’re drawing the money away from organized crime, who buy guns, heroin, cocaine and do human trafficking.”

Mr. Briere charges $50,000 for a 50-per-cent stake in any new franchise, then handles each location’s payroll, taxes and, most important, keeps a steady supply of illegal cannabis products flowing.

Constable Craig Brister, a Toronto police spokesman, said the force doesn’t prioritize the investigation of different types of drug crimes. He could not say how many dispensaries have been raided in recent years, but said if complaints are made against certain dispensaries then they will be investigated and “charges will be laid.”

“Every service is going to deal with it differently and [Vancouver police] have their own political people they have to answer to,” Constable Brister said. “Whatever shape it takes when the government writes the new laws [legalizing marijuana], then we’ll figure it out from there.

“But for now, it still is against the law.”

The face-to-face sale of cannabis products is illegal because these stores procure and sell their products outside Health Canada’s licensed medical-marijuana system, which was overhauled in 2014 and now allows about 20 industrial-scale growers to mail their products directly to patients who have a doctor’s prescription.

Rookie MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, has been tapped to oversee a federal-provincial task force that will create a framework for legalizing and regulating the recreational use of the drug. He told The Globe this week that the eventual system will involve “a strict regulatory regime” that makes sure cannabis products are unadulterated. Experts predict it could take up to two years before recreational use of the drug is legal.

In the meantime, those in the industry, such as Jamie Shaw, president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries trade organization, say the proliferation of dispensaries will continue if Toronto doesn’t step in to regulate the sector. Ms. Shaw, who also works for the country’s oldest dispensary, based in Vancouver, estimated that more than 100 shops could be operating in Toronto by March.

“They’ve got the chance to get on top of it that Vancouver didn’t really have,” she said. “If they wait another few months, they’re going to be exactly where Vancouver was and be dealing with a lot of dispensaries that are [eventually] going to require some sort of bylaw enforcement.”

Mayor John Tory declined a request late last week to comment on the surge of marijuana dispensaries.

His office deferred to Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the panel implementing the city’s harm-reduction drug strategy.

Mr. Cressy, whose ward encompasses the pot-shop hub of Kensington Market, acknowledges that Toronto, like other municipalities across the country, may be unprepared for a wave of illegal dispensaries. The city’s top medical officer will report back to council by June with recommendations on how to best regulate the shops, he said.

“It was our attempt to move quickly and get ahead of it and we’ll play catch-up as quickly as we can,” he said, noting that council must take its time if it wants to pass effective legislation. “Drug policy is complex and complicated, as it should be – drug use is complex and complicated.”

Jenna Valleriani, a University of Toronto PhD student studying both legal and illegal marijuana markets, said dispensary owners are selling to many recreational users but also serving patients fed up with the impersonal mail-order system overseen by Health Canada.

A handful of Toronto dispensaries have long operated discreetly, hidden near main downtown streets, but the proliferation of conspicuous pot shops “started to ramp up” in the months before the federal election, she said.

“It’s not really about serving a needy community [of medical users], it became more about staking a claim in regulation changes,” Ms. Valleriani said.

Still, she said it is unclear whether dispensaries will be allowed to distribute cannabis once it’s legalized, especially in Ontario where the government will face pressure from licensed commercial producers, 15 of which are based in the province.

Storefront sales are much different this time around for Mr. Briere compared to 2004, when his café was raided by police for openly hawking pot in a bohemian east Vancouver neighbourhood. In Toronto, he has also opened a large vapour lounge, where, after a $5 cover, patrons can pay a “budtender” for a “dab” or hit of cannabis concentrate.

He says his sector pays good wages and, if regulated properly, could be a boon for government as well as the economy.

“Starbucks is owned by three or four people, this is owned by everyone in the local community.”

Follow Mike Hager on Twitter: @MikePHager
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by papapuff » Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:18 pm

Toronto Star


How pot might benefit Toronto’s bottom line


A Q&A on whether and how taxing marijuana sales could benefit the city and Ontario.


By: Betsy Powell City Hall Bureau, Published on Fri Jan 15 2016

Can Toronto tax the sale of marijuana?

The City of Toronto Act (COTA) allows the city to impose a range of revenue tools, but not sales or income taxes. However, the act includes exemptions for liquor and tobacco. Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has studied Toronto’s taxing powers and thinks “it could be argued that it should extend to pot.”

A spokeswoman for the city said the act would require a legislative amendment, “pending the necessary changes at the federal level first.”

What is the federal government’s position on taxing recreational pot?


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said any taxes collected should be directed toward addiction treatment, mental-health support and education programs, and that the Liberal campaign promised to legalize pot not as a “money maker” but for public health and safety reasons.

How much could Toronto make from a pot sales tax?


There are no revenue estimates, but according to “Toronto’s Taxing Question,” a report prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the city could bring in $77 million a year by levying a 5 per cent tax on alcohol sold at the LCBO, Beer Store, agency stores, breweries and wineries. Denver, which has a population of less than 700,000 (compared to about 2.8 million for Toronto), is projecting to collect more than $7 million (U.S.) from a special marijuana retail sales tax in 2016 and nearly $28 million in total marijuana-related revenue, which also includes the standard sales tax and licensing fees.

Which states have fully legalized recreational pot?


Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington.

When will pot be legal in Canada?


Trudeau was noncommittal on timing when he was asking by a reporter during his visit to Toronto this week.

What is the mandate of Liberal MP Bill Blair?


The former Toronto police chief is leading the federal government’s legalization project. As parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Blair will work with a three-member cabinet team and a federal-provincial-territorial task force to craft the government’s policy.

Once legal, where will pot be sold?

Blair says provincial liquor stores may be the most reasonable place from which to control legal cannabis sales, because of their capacity to restrict youth access to the drug.
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by papapuff » Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:39 pm

Toronto Sun


A look inside a medical marijuana dispensary

BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2016

The Toronto Dispensary had a quiet opening in the neighbourhood last February,

It now provides medicinal marijuana to more than 1,000 patients for home consumption.

Along with glass canisters containing several varities of weed, three LCD screens on the wall list what’s on the menu including marijuana-infused fudge, cake pops and fizzy soft-drinks.

Before you get to the main showroom, you walk through the reception area with its calming grey walls where patients present their prescription and undergo an interview and a lounge area where family members of patients can watch TV or play Xbox - and in some cases, learn how to roll joints.

Despite the relaxed vibe, the storefront is under the watchful eye of eight CCTV cameras that capture every move and feed into a large Samsung flatscreen TV in the dispensary area.

The dispensary operates mainly by word-of-mouth and through positive reviews on Leafly, an online directory of dispensary locations.

Operations manager Marina - who wouldn’t provide her last name - confirmed she files her taxes under a registered business number.

“People don’t look at dispensaries as an evil anymore,” said Marina, who has a business administration background. “They recognize that there’s a service we’re providing. As the stigma goes down, the number of locations goes up. They’re still popping up and the market can still absorb it. There’s demand. None of them are slow.”

She said many landlords are “sympathetic to our cause” and stressed they are conducting their business “by the book.

“We’re not doing anything wrong,” she said.

She said dispensaries supply patients who need it with quick access instead of waiting days to get their shipment from a licensed producer by mail and also provides them with more face-to-face information on the pot they’re receiving.

“We have then have a conversation with them of what they’re looking for and what they’re trying to achieve,” she said. “I really think the system right now is broken for the patients.”

The dispensary says it works with growers from British Columbia who were licensed under the old Health Canada regime — The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations — that changed April 1, 2014.

In the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, the feds no longer license users or distribute marijuana, but only oversee licensed producers. Still, those who were grandfathered in the old system are still allowed to grow their own plants after a federal court judge ruling that same year.
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by papapuff » Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:45 pm

Toronto Sun



Hazy rules around medical marijuana dispensaries

BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2016

VIDEO

TORONTO - They line up to see God at this dimly-lit emporium in the Church and Wellesley area — and then they go home and smoke it.

Before opening at 11 a.m., Toronto Dispensary operations manager Marina gingerly reaches into a safe and pulls out more than a dozen glass canisters filled with different types of green bud, mainly imported from British Columbia.

Each jar contains different strains of marijuana with funky names — LA Chocolate, Chemo, Purple Paralysis and, of course, the earthy-smelling God — and she places them in glass cabinets that her customers can peruse before purchasing.

The price for a gram is about $10 — or $225 for an ounce.

But before you head down to pick up some ounces of God, you should know the rules around dispensaries are hazy at best. While these dispensaries are acting as a weed pharmacy, they’re doing so illegally, according to Health Canada, Toronto Police and the City of Toronto.

Right now, only licensed producers authorized by Health Canada — just 15 in Ontario and 27 across the country — are allowed to sell pot through the mail to those with verified prescriptions.

But that hasn’t stopped almost 50 dispensaries from setting up shop in Toronto over the last two years. And as the federal Liberals push forward with their plan to legalize pot, those in the industry are confident Toronto will continue to see more dispensaries opening up, joining the ranks of Vancouver as a weed capital of Canada and allowing quicker and easier access to pot for patients battling cancer and other illnesses.

Police say that while “technically” it’s still illegal, dispensaries fall into a grey area and will continue to do so until the federal government legalizes all marijuana.

“We don’t have the resources to walk up and down Yonge St. to see who’s smoking a joint,” a police source told the Sun. “If we get calls for complaints, we would investigate them and lay charges. But that’s what happens when we get into this grey area. We’re not conducting those types of proactive stings like we used to.”

In Kensington Market alone, there at least six dispensaries selling medicinal marijuana within a one-kilometre radius.

Business is buzzing – much to a mix of delight and chagrin to residents and business owners.

Alfonso Segovia of El Gordo Fine Foods in Kensington Market is dismayed by how many of these storefronts have opened and worries how it may affect his business.

“How many sick people are there that there needs to be this many dispensaries?” he said. “You can walk down the street and you can smell it. People have always smoked pot, but not to the extent you see it now. For people who don’t understand or use it, it’s a problem, especially if you have children.”

Anna Kosior, whose mother battled breast cancer using medical marijuana, thinks the opposite.

“Alcohol has been legal for a much longer time,” she said. “(Marijuana) has been extremely stigmatized. My mom was prescribed topical treatments because she wasn’t able to smoke and just seeing the change of her being on chemo to her being on something more natural, it was a beautiful transformation.”

Currently, the City of Toronto maintains it doesn’t have a role in enforcing dispensaries and it’s the police and federal government’s responsibility.

Councillor Joe Cressy, who heads the Toronto Drug Strategy implementation panel, said he has asked the chief medical officer of health to come back with a report in the coming months to address what they can do in the meantime on the municipal level.

Vancouver implemented a bylaw in June to deal with its more than 100 dispensaries. Under Vancouver’s new system, retail pot shops have to pay an annual $30,000 licensing fee and must be at least 300 metres from schools, community centres and other dispensaries or compassion clubs. Many dispensaries in Toronto are using that as a guideline.

Meanwhile, the dispensaries are crying out for regulation.

“Technically, it’s extremely easy for us to be charged,” said Neev Tapiero, director of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. “Right now, there is very little legal difference between someone selling out of their basement versus a dispensary. The link is incomplete because Health Canada doesn’t recognize marijuana and I don’t see Bill Blair making comments good or bad.

“I’m afraid we’ll be sidelined.”

jenny.yuen@sunmedia.ca
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by papapuff » Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:52 pm

Toronto Sun


Why do you buy from a marijuana dispensary?

Medicinal marijuana customer says it is "like going to the farmers' market"


BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2016

Lisa Campbell, a 32-year-old medicinal marijuana patient, has used dispensaries for two years to treat pain and nausea.

Here’s what she had to say in a Q & A with the Sun:

How do you access marijuana?

“Mail order is a great way to get cannabis as well but going into the store, seeing your medicine, being able to smell it – it’s like going to a farmers' market and being able to pick out your own fruit.”

Why do you use dispensaries?

“Patients are able to get feedback about their cannabis use. They can get tips on how to moderate their dose. It also builds community locally as well because the patients give each other advice. There is a lot of stigma against medical marijuana patients, so having a dispensary creates the community of rapport.”

Any other reasons?

“Most of the time, I’ll go to my local dispensary in Kensington Market because it’s a five-minute walk. It’s more convenient. Other times, because the quality fluctuates between producers and dispensaries, sometimes, there are mail-order recreational Websites that have been around for over 10 years that provide really good quality medicine you can’t get from Toronto. A lot of people have disabilities as well, so there has to be a variety of options.”

What are your biggest concerns about the lack of rules around dispensaries?

“People are still being targeted – dispensary owners, patients, suppliers. People are still being charged for cannabis in Canada, even though it may not seem like it. The longer we wait, the scarier it is for everyone. And the City of Toronto needs to act. Our government has been mute.”
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by papapuff » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:33 pm

Toronto Sun


Toronto needs say in legalization of pot: Councillor

BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, JANUARY 18, 2016

TORONTO - Councillor Jim Karygiannis fears Toronto will become the weed capital of Canada.

Given that the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city has grown to nearly 50, the Scarborough-Agincourt politician wants the city to be included in the development of regulations needed to govern legal pot.

He’ll call on the city’s municipal licensing and standards committee on Friday to demand a seat on the federal task force now hammering out a proposed framework for the sale and regulation of marijuana.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it clear his government will legalize weed for recreational use, few details have been worked out.

“I’d like to see a set of rules,” Karygiannis said Monday. “We even regulated the vapour lounges. Capping the numbers is something to be looked upon. I think three or four in my ward would be adequate — not 50.”

Karygiannis put forward a motion that demands “Toronto’s interests are addressed,” including looking at appropriate locations for dispensaries. He wants to ensure weed is not sold close to schools or daycare centres.

“We need to do a study and make sure our folks are at the table,” he contended. “We don’t need Amsterdam-style coffee shops or recreational marijuana shops popping up in our neighbourhoods.”

Dispensaries as it stands are illegal, according to Toronto Police and Health Canada.

Councillor Joe Cressy, who heads the Toronto Drug Strategy, said he is waiting on a report from the chief medical officer of health on how the city should deal with marijuana dispensaries.

jenny.yuen@sunmedia.ca
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:29 am

HiBusiness



Toronto Councilor Karygiannis Urges Halt To Marijuana Dispensary Raids

By Modou Sarr - July 12, 2016

Councilor Jim Karygiannis says he wants to stop the city’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.

He is slamming police raids of marijuana dispensaries in the city as a waste of taxpayers’ money. “That was money that was not well-spent,” Coun. Jim Karygiannis said Monday in response to last week’s raids. “It was a knee-jerk reaction because of a couple hundred emails.”

The councilor was joined by marijuana advocates ahead of a municipal licensing and standards committee meeting Monday.

“…when you put the amount of police officers at $60 to $70 an hour, and the bylaw officers at $50 an hour — that’s quite a substantial amount. That was not money well spent,” he added.

Karygiannis said to do that he’ll introduce a motion at the next Licensing and Standards committee meeting that would call on city staff to defer study of regulating and enforcement around the dispensaries until after the federal government sets the rules for marijuana legalization.

23 people were arrested in police raids of four marijuana dispensaries, prompting pot advocates to speak out against those actions. “I have a lot of respect for the police chief and the way he thinks,” the councilor said, but added that when it comes to the raids, “we don’t see eye-to-eye.”

Karygiannis said the city is wasting valuable resources cracking down on the dispensaries.

In a letter sent to the committee last month, Mayor John Tory asked the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Tracey Cook to work with the chief medical officer of health and the Toronto Police Service to provide recommendations on how to deal with the growing number of pot dispensaries in the city.

“I understand dispensaries shouldn’t be close to schools or other educational institutions,” he said, “but we need to have regulations and we need them now. These police raids are a waste of resources.”

“We respect the federal government’s decision to legalize possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Going forward, the city has a responsibility to ensure this emerging industry operates responsibly, without a negative impact on the health and safety of our residents and neighborhoods,” the mayor’s letter read.

Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which allows mail-only distribution to patients by federally licensed providers, were struck down in February by a federal court judge. Ottawa has until August to draft new rules in line with the Charter and is expected to propose a framework for recreational pot legalization next year. Members of the public who attended the committee meeting today hoping to share their views on marijuana dispensaries were disappointed to learn that the item had been deferred until October.

It is not yet clear how many search warrants were executed but police were seen seizing large quantities of marijuana products from locations across the city.Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders will present the results of the raids and the total number of charges laid with city staff at a press conference Friday morning.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:44 am

Mondaq News Alerts



Canada: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Toronto: A Commercial Landlord's Problem?

Last Updated: July 13 2016
Article by Janet L. Bobechko and Oliver Moore

The proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto has prompted city councillors to crack down—albeit in different ways—on these illegal businesses. While Vancouver has sought to limit the number of dispensaries through a licensing scheme, Toronto has begun placing responsibility for proliferation on landlords. Commercial landlords in Toronto should be careful about renting to dispensaries and consider adding language to their standard forms of lease to protect themselves in the event of enforcement action by the city.

Background

Access to medical marijuana is regulated under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations1(MMPR), with some licences still existing under the now-repealed Marihuana Medical Access Regulations2. Storefront dispensaries are not licenced under either regime and therefore do not operate legally. In Allard et al v Canada, the Federal Court declared the MMPR regime unconstitutional, citing patients' right to access marijuana for medical purposes.3 Although some argue that this decision justifies dispensaries supplying medical marijuana to patients, these unlicenced dispensaries remain illegal for the time being.

However, in Vancouver and Toronto, local police have taken a largely hands-off approach. As a result, both cities have seen a surge in the number of dispensaries. While Vancouver has sought to address the issue by way of a by-law delineating how and where the businesses can operate,4Toronto has taken a different approach. Toronto city council recently announced the debate over a potential licencing regime would be deferred until details of the proposed federal legislation are made available.5 In the meantime, the city has been targeting the illegal businesses, and, importantly, their landlords.

In May 2016, the City of Toronto and the Toronto police distributed notices of unpermitted use to dozens of landlords whose tenants operate dispensaries.6According to the city, marijuana dispensaries are in violation of zoning by-laws. Landlords renting to an illegal operation face fines of up to $50,000 for a first conviction, and up to $25,000 per day for subsequent convictions if they continue to not comply.7

Notices of unlawful activity distributed concurrently by the Toronto police threatened landlords whose tenants operate dispensaries with the possibility of prosecution under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act8or other provincial statutes, including the Civil Remedies Act.9 Last month, the Toronto police raided 43 dispensaries. The first round of raids was followed in late June with more enforcement activity, resulting in 34 dispensaries being shut down.10 There are reports that marijuana dispensary owners, store clerks and their landlords were charged.11

What can landlords do?

Due Diligence

Landlords can protect themselves by doing diligence on prospective tenants. Before entering into a lease, landlords should perform robust business and legal diligence searches. These searches can include everything from Google searches to corporate and bankruptcy searches to police background checks. In particular, landlords should be aware of tenants purporting to operate pharmacies and alternative medicine practices. For existing tenants, landlords should regularly inspect the leased premises pursuant to the terms of their leases.

In this context, the tenant's illegal acts could result in liability for the landlord; therefore, there is an increased onus on landlords to conduct their own due diligence. Zoning and licence by-law offences are typically "strict liability" offences, meaning that liability can attach even where the landlord had no knowledge of the wrongdoing. As a result, landlords may need to do additional due diligence to ensure tenants' legal compliance, including making inquiries as to permitted use under zoning by-laws and ensuring tenants have the necessary business licences.

Adapted Lease Provisions

Landlords should also ensure that their leases provide them with sufficient remedies to deal with tenants' legal non-compliance. Landlords should seek to ensure they have the ability under the lease to step in and cure (or otherwise address) legal non-compliance on the part of the tenant before it results in liability for the landlord. In that vein, landlords should consider tailoring the default provisions of their leases towards potential by-law infractions, for example by including landlord rights to cure the tenant's non-compliance at the tenant's cost.

Landlords should also make sure that the notice and cure periods for such defaults under the lease track the notice and cure periods that might be specified in an enforcement order from the city or other governmental authority. A landlord does not want to be served with an enforcement order that gives it three days to comply while the lease default provisions allow the tenant five days to comply.

Bottom line

Although the dispensaries remain illegal, it is unlikely landlords in Vancouver will be targeted by by-law enforcement, as the city has taken a regulatory approach to managing the dispensaries. Further, Vancouver police have stated they will not be targeting medical marijuana dispensaries unless there is a public safety concern.12

In Toronto, however, the city and Toronto police have put landlords on notice as to the presence of dispensaries on their property, making it incumbent upon them to take steps to remove these illegal businesses.

The authors wish to thank summer student Erika Woolgar for her help in preparing this legal update.

Footnotes

1 SOR/2013-119.

2 SOR/2001-227, as repealed by Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, SOR/2013-119, s 267.

3 2016 FC 236.

4 See: http://vancouver.ca/doing-business/medi ... tions.aspx.

5 See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/tor ... e30627296/.

6 See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/nat ... e30089082/.

7 Planning Act, RSO 1990, c P13, s 67(2)(a).

8 SC 1996, c 19.

9 SO 2001, c 28, s 8(1).

10 See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/tor ... e30627296/.

11 See: http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/20 ... court.html.

12 See: http://vancouver.ca/police/policeboard/ ... saries.pdf.

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by papapuff » Sat Jul 16, 2016 11:50 am

Toronto Sun



'Smoke-in' protesters just wanted to be heard

SARAH HANLON

FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2016

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Justin Loizos led a group of frustrated medical marijuana patients into a downtown intersection on Friday for a smoke session which shut down traffic. The group of about 30 protesters were diverse but united in their mission to be heard.

The patients who gathered at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Sts. were protesting Bill 178 which groups medical marijuana in with tobacco products in the Ontario Smoke Free Act. This bill would prevent patients from medicating in many places and threatens the existence of cannabis lounges in the city.

Hamilton comedian Dan Peters showed up to support the cause.

“Its all about patient rights,” he told passersby as the crowd grew. “They have a right to be able to safely medicate in a safe and community-oriented space.”

He noted some of these lounges have operated in Toronto for over a decade — “renting space, employing people and paying taxes.”

At 4:40 p.m. — 20 minutes late for their planned 4:20 p.m. start (420 is synonymous with weed smoking), members of the small but determined group walked out and took a seat — they even brought chaise lounges. Cars and passersby immediately responded.

The reaction was mixed, many people showed support with thumbs ups and 420 chants while others made their disapproval heard with car horns. Some very angry taxi drivers weaved through the protesters at high speeds with no concern for people’s safety.

The protesters didn’t stay long, leaving after five minutes and just a few light changes. Long-time medical marijuana patient Naomi Poley, known to the cannabis community as “Ganja Gramma” told reporters she was shocked by the cabs hostile reaction.

“Our plan wasn’t to make people mad. It was just to be heard and I think we accomplished that in a short amount of time,” she said.

Organizer Loizos felt it was a successful day and plans on holding more “smoke-ins” in the coming weeks, adding there was enough supporters to shut down the intersection.

“It actually doesn’t take a huge group of people, which is exciting. I want this to be big and happening in different cities,” he added. “Tens of thousands of people use cannabis medically inside of Ontario and we need to start coming together — not to cause chaos but to be heard.”

When asked what he would say to those who are critical of protesters halting traffic in such a busy area, he responded with a sigh: “I don’t want to do this. The last thing I want to be doing is smoking out here in the streets. That is the whole point — we need a place to medicate.

“I’m a sick person — for a lot of the protest my legs were shaking and I was having trouble walking,” said Loizos. “I could see other patients who were in distress as well, but we need to be heard.”

Interestingly, their was a police presence at the smoke-in.

A single officer dealt with a fight between two men as the protest started and sped away in his patrol car.

Many protesters were quick to note the city obviously has bigger issues than pot lounges to deal with.

— Sarah Hanlon is a pot activist and a columnist for 24 Hours
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by papapuff » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:57 pm

CBC.ca



Let lounges sell pot like bars sell alcohol, forum told

Group has already designed training course for 'bud tenders'

By Mike Smee, CBC News Posted: Jul 25, 2016

Marijuana bars that sell pot rather than alcohol should be licensed to operate in Toronto, a city councillor's forum on marijuana distribution heard Monday.

Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who represents Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, called the meeting to give frustrated medical marijuana distributors and their supporters a chance to air their thoughts, after controversial police raids in May led to hundreds of charges against owners and employees at 43 Toronto marijuana dispensaries.

A handful of marijuana lounges operate legally in Toronto, but they're only allowed to cater to people who are users of medical marijuana and who get their product through the mail from government-authorized distributors. The lounges cannot sell pot to their patrons for use on the premises.

That's something that Abi Hod would like to see change. She's the owner of the Hotbox Lounge in Kensington Market and the director of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association. She said the lounges should also be allowed to sell marijuana to customers.

"A very reasonable proposition"

"Though we strongly recommend dispensaries as a fantastic avenue of distribution both socially and economically, they should not be the only option available to the public," she told the forum. "Our lounges have proven for almost 15 years to be responsible, socially caring environments to their customers and communities.

"By regulating and licensing our existing cannabis lounges, the City of Toronto will be solving the issue of public consumption & street distribution of small amounts of cannabis, in our streets and public spaces."

Another speaker at the forum, Ian Dawkins, the executive director of the Cannabis Growers of Canada, said later that marijuana bars are "a very reasonable proposition."

Lounge operators "are perfectly capable of following the same kinds of rules that bars and restaurants currently follow, in order to serve cannabis on-site safely. Numerous other cities around the world have cannabis 'coffee shops' or 'vapour lounges' that operate in a socially responsible manner, and we see no reason Canada's cities can't be the same way."

Training course for "bud tenders"

He said his organization has already developed a special training program for prospective "bud tenders" that's similar to the Smart Serve program that bar staff need to complete.

Another speaker at the forum, CFBA member Marko Ivancicevic, said the market alone —not city hall — should regulate the number of marijuana lounges that are allowed to operate in the city.

"Is there a cap on the amount of bars that can be licensed?" he asked Karygiannis. "In terms of an actual number, no. The market will determine how many survive."

The federal government has promised to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in 2017. But some dispensaries are already selling marijuana from storefront operations, mainly to medicinal users.

Marijuana dispensaries angry about charges

The proliferation of dispensaries led to a Toronto police crackdown in May. Ninety people face trafficking-related charges, and about 270 kilograms of marijuana were seized.

Many dispensary owners were outraged at the charges, but at a meeting of the city's municipal licensing and standards committee in June, they weren't given the opportunity to speak.

The committee will debate a report from city staff on regulating marijuana distribution at its meeting in October.
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:08 am

Toronto Sun



Medical marijuana advocates have their say

BY AARON D'ANDREA, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, JULY 25, 2016

TORONTO - Dozens of medical marijuana advocates finally had a chance to weigh in on Toronto’s pot dispensary regulations at an open forum at City Hall on Monday.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis held the meeting to allow people the opportunity to express their concerns and propose ways to create regulations after being denied a chance to do so in June.

“We just want to hear from the folks first-hand what they’re experiencing,” he said.

However, Karygiannis was the only councillor to show up, despite his invites to colleagues.

“The problem is it’s a one-way conversation at this stage of the game,” Kostantino Beltsis, president at Patience First, said of the turnout. “I would welcome the opportunity for a larger group to sit around — together — and actually have pro-active discussion.”

Attendees including the Toronto Dispensaries Coalitions (TDC) brought up various options for creating rules in the city.

The TDC is recommending the city not allow anyone under 19 into shops, that they be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and not be located within 100 metres of each other or schools.

They also recommend a $10,000 licensing fee and a $2,000 annual renewal fee with funds that will go to various drug prevention programs.

Michael McLellan, a volunteer representative at the TDC, said the recommendations are perfect.

“These rules — and rules like them — if implemented are the best way to serve the needs of patients in Toronto,” he said. “It keeps cannabis out of the hands of minors, extinguishes the black market, and staves off expensive and inappropriate enforcement actions.”

Ian Dawkins, executive director of Cannabis Growers of Canada, said the city should be talking with the medical marijuana industry when it comes to creating regulations.

“There is product floating around right now that is untested and unsafe because of the illicit nature of the black market,” he said. “That’s something we can take care of overnight.”

On June 27, the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee deferred a discussion on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in order to wait until Aug. 24 when the federal government is set to introduce new rules on access to medical marijuana.
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:43 pm

insideTORONTO.com

July 26,2016


Marijuana advocates and storefront operators invited to share views at Toronto City Hall by Scarborough Councillor Jim Karygiannis

City Centre Mirror
By Mike Adler

Let the market decide how many licensed pot shops Toronto should have, some marijuana advocates told Scarborough Councillor Jim Karygiannis this week.

Others, represented by the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition, proposed a set of rules (see sidebar) which include mandatory distances from schools and other dispensaries.

Toronto Council’s Licensing and Standards Committee, however, won’t start talking about regulating dispensaries until at least October.

In May and again in June, the group of councillors sent away representatives of the city’s marijuana industry who wanted to set up some regulations.

Karygiannis, who is a member of the committee, invited them back to Toronto City Hall on Monday so they could be heard.

No other councillors showed up during their summer break to listen, but Michael McLellan of the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition made his case dispensaries are “the safest, best option” for marijuana sales, doing the city more good than harm.

People in the storefront marijuana trade told Karygiannis they don’t want their distribution handed over to “novices” - as one dispensary owner, Chris Cardozo, called them - such as Shoppers Drug Mart or the LCBO after Ottawa legalizes the drug.

Several said charges from Project Claudia, as raids of dozens of Toronto pot shops by police in May were called, won’t stand up in court.

Abi Hod, owner of the Hot Box lounge in Kensington Market, said pot should be licensed like liquor, and cannabis lounges should be able to sell to customers.

Hod said there are now seven such vapour lounges in Toronto, all operating on a bring-your-own basis.

When Karygiannis asked her how many dispensaries and lounges the city should allow, Hod said a free market will limit the number.

“Is there a cap of the amount of bars that can be licensed?” asked Marko Ivancicevic, a patient advocate who also backed this position.

Constantine Beltsis, a medical marijuana patient, told the councillor Toronto’s dispensaries make “offensive” profits from pot, selling at prices tough to afford, especially on a fixed income or disability allowance.

“I’ve yet to find a compassionate dispensary in Toronto,” said Beltsis, calling Canada’s current regulations on medical marijuana use “nothing short of a train wreck.”

Patients should be able to grow their own, and “arbitrary assaults” on those who do must end, said Beltsis, whose mother, who also spoke at Monday’s forum, grew 11 plants for her son’s medicine until six police officers raided her home.


SIDEBAR

WHAT POT SHOP OWNERS SAY TORONTO’S RULES SHOULD BE

Toronto councillors won’t discuss this until October, but the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition says the following are “safe, sensible and reasonable” regulations for the city’s pot shops:
• Dispensaries may open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. only, and admit no one under 19
• Dispensaries cannot be within 100 metres of each other, or of an elementary or high school
• Cannabis cannot be consumed in dispensaries
• Dispensaries must sign a “good neighbour agreement,” which includes a neighbourhood canvass and open house
• City license fees for dispensaries should be $10,000, with an annual renewal fee of $2,000, with the money going to drug prevention programs

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by papapuff » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:29 am

Macleans.ca



Blunt talk: Sniffing out the divisive smell of weed in Toronto

With public pot smoking on the rise—along with complaints about the smell—we work with a pro smeller to find the science behind that aroma

Meagan Campbell
August 3, 2016

VIDEO

Sidarta Medina’s nose explores Toronto’s Christie Pits Park. It inhales a hint of vanilla soft serve, a trace of chlorine, and a waft of a clammy jogger. The nostrils flutter at the scent of a mango smoothie, a California roll with soy sauce, and green peppers on a warm slice of pizza. A twister of tobacco fumes enter his nose, but he’s searching for a different drug, for the earthy, bitter funk of marijuana.

With more than 100 pot dispensaries in the Greater Toronto Area, the city recently overtook Vancouver as the cannabis capital of Canada. While tobacco sales have plummeted since the 1990s, giving non-smokers years of nasal liberty, Ottawa’s promise to legalize marijuana means public smoke is back, and in communities across Canada parents and other residents complain about the stench of grow-ops or the smell of pot in the streets. To test the prevalence and pungency of the odour in public hubs downtown, Maclean’s enlisted Medina, an odour measurement expert.

The starting site, Christie Pits, is a greenspace in a traditionally NDP riding, where little leagues trot across baseball diamonds and couples lie braided together in the grass. On a Friday evening in July, the park is peppered with picnickers wearing tank tops, kids wearing bathing suits, and Medina, wearing a $6,000 olfactometry apparatus—a backpack strapped with a pylon-orange canister and a hissing scuba tank, feeding a respirator mask through tubes. “They are going to think we are the Ghostbusters,” he says.

Neither the pavilion nor playground emits whiffs of weed. Gravel paths, basketball courts, slacklining spot: all clear.
Medina roams, mask off, until he finds a tree line. On the adjacent sidewalk, he halts. His nostrils flare. Plumes of smoke descend. Thirty metres upwind, a man and woman lean on tree trunks, passing a cigarette that is not tobacco.

Medina recalibrates his nose by breathing clean oxygen through his mask. The apparatus mixes the oxygen with a minuscule amount of outside air, in increasing intervals. Very little is needed before Medina detects terpenes, the odourous molecules in cannabis. Startled by what appears on his tablet, he redoes the test, only to confirm that, at 5:38 pm, the ambient smell measures 5,000 odour units per cubic meter, meaning it’s 5,000 times stronger than required for an average human nose to detect.

“I never imagined it,” he says. Working for a company called Scentroid, he regularly monitors odours at landfills, meat factories and sewage treatment plants. However Medina, who doesn’t smoke himself, has never before measured marijuana. “When we grab the sample from the wastewater treatment plant, it’s almost the same concentration,” he says. The potency is not dramatically lower than that of a rendering plant he tested, where slaughterhouse by-products get churned into grease, along with bone and meat meal. The fumes directly above the grease measured 6,500 odour units. The odour of an espresso machine, by contrast, measures 400 odour units while brewing, when tested one metre away, and Febreze (island fresh scent) scores 2,100 odour units when tested inside a ventilated washroom.

One odour unit, technically called a European Odor Unit, represents the intensity of stench for an average human nose to detect it, but not necessarily identify it. Conceptualized in 1999 by experts from 10 European countries, it’s now in standard use in most Western countries to track air quality and craft smells for the food and flavour industry. While criticized by some for being too subjective, it’s nevertheless accepted as the best system available for quantifying odour.

In Christie Pits, mother Shawna Agustin strolls by with her six-month-old daughter. “Every time we pass by here, we smell it,” she says. “I don’t want [her] to smell it.” Although children don’t remember other experiences until about age three, they can recall smells from the first two days of life. When traversing the smoke, Agustin walks faster.

Shaking maracas to Cuban rumba, two other park-goers report smelling weed weekly. “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” says a man who claims his name is “Tony Montana,” between puffs of a cigarette. “Some people really hate the smell of cigarettes, and the government sells cigarettes . . . How about the smell of cars, the gasoline?” Jose Lopez, 42, dissents: “The mothers smell it. How do they explain to their kids?” In the winter, Lopez complains that the odour follows him to libraries. “Human beings,” he says, “we need to smell the flowers.”

Weed has become Toronto’s most potent and controversial smell. While European and American cities have odour bylaws—and some, odour hotlines—Torontonians who dislike the rank smell from any type of smoker on the sidewalk must simply hold their breath. “There’s nobody they can complain to because there’s nobody who deals with that issue,” says Mark Sraga, director of investigative services for the City of Toronto. The provincial government plans to amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to “crack down on public marijuana smoking,” but it hasn’t given a timeline.

Ontario is home to 18 of Canada’s 31 licensed medical marijuana operations. In Markham last year, parents reported that their elementary schoolchildren smelled like pot after a resident started a grow-op in his house across the street. The city shut down the operation based on a zoning violation (to which dispensaries are liable) that ensures if an establishment “does produce offensive or obnoxious odours,” as Sraga says “it’s separate from other sensitive land uses, such as residences, daycares, schools.”

It’s not that encountering marijuana smoke is dangerous. People left in an unventilated room full of smoke for an hour feel only mild intoxication, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Turn a fan on, and they don’t get intoxicated at all (although they do get hungry). Second-hand tobacco smoke, by contrast, leads to premature death by heart disease of about 2,000 Canadians each year, and by lung disease for another 350, according to Health Canada reports in the mid-’90s.

Marijuana does, however, smell exponentially stronger than tobacco. At Medina’s second location, Trinity Bellwoods Park along Queen Street West, he doesn’t find marijuana but detects a chimney of tobacco scent coming from a smoker 15 m upwind. The measurement: just 30 odour units.

Each odour has a detection threshold, which determines how easy it is to smell. Cinnamon, roasted coffee, cap guns and phonebooks have low detection thresholds, while lettuce has a higher threshold and is harder to detect. Marijuana has a much lower detection threshold than tobacco, so it smells harsher and travels further. Medina explains, “It makes your olfactory nerves excited.”

Or repulsed. Cannabis plants evolved to smell repugnant to mammals and other predators, and attractive to insects that help the plants reproduce. Complaints are therefore justified. However, each odour has a subjective pleasantness, called a hedonic tone, so a mammal that associates weed with music festivals or patio parties might instead smell it with the fondness as would a praying mantis. As a 23-year-old man in Trinity Bellwoods explains, “You’re walking down the street. You smell a hotdog stand. You smell some weed . . . It’s just part of summer.”

Raw fish, Jamaican meat patties, waffle cones, woodfire bagels—this is the olfactory cornucopia of Kensington Market. At Medina’s next stop, he tests a fish stall, donning his mask as flavours swim up his nose. (In this neighbourhood,

bystanders assume his equipment is designed for spray painting.) The slimy fillets, in 28° C air, emit 2,000 odour units. Indeed, he’s about to find out that no other smell outside comes close to the 5,000 odour units of pot smoke.

Not even a cannabis dispensary, Canna Clinic, which exhibits jars of dried drugs and hosts people vaporizing out front, compares. Standing 6.5 m from the store, Medina measures a cannabis score of 2,300 odour units, suggesting the vaporizers produce less scent than marijuana cigarettes, likely because they heat the drug at lower temperatures.

Marijuana scent doesn’t cling to walls or the air like tobacco scent does because the molecules aren’t soluble in water vapour. However, cannabis odour does linger on people’s skin and clothes because the molecules dissolve in oils.

Two doors down, a different dispensary hides its smell. Despite its array of flavours, featuring “shishkaberry,” “Blue God” and “Pink Kush,” Medina detects no odours. The place uses two carbon filters in the basement, along with odour-absorbing gels in the storefront, to appease the building’s landlord and 10 tenants. The gel kits are the size of mop buckets, full of shrivelled green gunk where marijuana molecules have dissolved. These “neutralizers” are also common in illegal grow-ops, along with “masquarants,” which are scented products like Febreze.

Still, an olfactory arms race is under way. As a street drug, marijuana has increased in potency. In 2013, the federal government warned that the content of THC (tetrahydrocannabinal, the intoxicant) had increased from three to 12 per cent since 1980 in some strands. As growers engineer plants with higher THC content, they have also increased the content of terpenes, strengthening the smell and taste. One 68-year-old man in Kensington Market, Michael Phoenix Green, laments, “Back in the 60s, it was a beautiful smell. Now it smells like a skunk with gastroenteritis.”

For all the complaints about Toronto’s weed odour, Medina finds no traces in some of the most likely pot spots—like Yonge–Dundas Square, the Times Square of Toronto, at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Instead, the sniffing expert stays in his Ghostbuster gear (a bystander asks: “Are you guys from Statistics Canada?”) and lets his nose explore. Two metres from the open doors of a restaurant frying chicken he measures the smell at 2,300 odour units—less than half of what marijuana produced from 30 m away.

At a shisha café, in which customers smoke flavoured tobacco through vaporizer pipes, Medina conducts a final test in search of a smell as strong as the marijuana at Christie Pits Park, where residents jogged, kids played ball, and a mother and six-month-old strolled. Amid the lung-tingling haze of tobacco, which fogs the windows and carries tinges of strawberry mint and kiwi scents, Medina finds his match. The odour strength inside the shisha café measures exactly the same.
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by papapuff » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:38 am

NOW Magazine



TORONTO MIGHT AS WELL BE MARS WHEN IT COMES TO STOREFRONT WEED

City Hall forum on the future street-level dispensaries hears from councillor that May's police raids "was a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of hundred emails the mayor got"

BY MILES KENYON AUGUST 3, 2016

Raymond Hathaway, a Toronto paralegal who is suing the city for $1 million for interfering with his access to medical marijuana as a result of police raids on dispensaries back in May, doesn’t mince words.

"The raids are grand theft, destruction of property, and, from a patient perspective, criminal harassment on the basis of disability," Hathaway says, eliciting applause from dozens of members of the public gathered in a committee room at City Hall Monday, July 25, to spark discussion on the future of marijuana dispensaries in Toronto.

Hathaway’s lawsuit centres around his inability to access Rick Simpson Oil, a cannabis extract that is currently not available through any of Canada’s 34 Licensed Producers of medical marijuana. This, he argues in his lawsuit, constitutes a violation of his human rights.

“Dispensaries are not in a grey area and are not illegal,” he says, pointing to several court cases supporting patient access to medical marijuana, including R. v. Parker, a 2000 Ontario Court of Appeal decision that found prohibiting cannabis use was unconstitutional because some illnesses require it for treatment.

The city’s Licensing and Standards Committee voted June 27 to defer a discussion on the licensing of dispensaries until provincial and federal legislation has been passed on the matter.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis, the only member of the committee to vote against deferral, organized the forum to hear from the 40 or so individuals who had registered to speak to the committee but ended up being turned away after its deferral decision.

The Scarborough-Agincourt councillor, who has gone after grow ops in his ward in the past, has emerged as an unlikely champion for those supporting a storefront model for legal marijuana, even as a federal task deciding how to move ahead with legalization has sent mixed signals on the future of street-level dispensaries.

Karygiannis, speaking to NOW Magazine in an interview later, says police raids that shutdown some 49 storefront locations in May, dubbed Project Claudia, “was a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of hundred emails that the mayor got.”

Quickly doing some calculations with input from forum participants, Karygiannis estimates that as much as $450,000 was spent on the raids, which ended in hundreds of marijuana edibles and some 270 kilograms of dried marijuana. Ninety people were arrested and some 186 charges laid in the raids.

Michael McLellan, volunteer representative for Toronto Dispensaries Coalition, a group which has been pushing “safe, sensible and reasonable” regulation of storefront operations, proposes licensing fees, criminal record checks for owners and a prohibition on consuming cannabis products on the premises.

Ian Dawkins, executive director of the Cannabis Growers of Canada, questioned why there seemed to be unreasonable scrutiny and speculation regarding the legality of dispensaries.

“The fact that the federal government has already said that [marijuana] should be legal, why are we still having this conversation?”

He pointed to Victoria as a model Toronto could follow. There, city council is currently in the process of reviewing a comprehensive list of licensing rules that would govern the 35 dispensaries in the city, giving them regulatory clout even before Ottawa forms a plan on how to legalize the drug.

“Victoria isn’t Mars; it’s Canada,” Dawkins says.

Some at the City Hall forum suggested dispensaries could be a boon to the local economy. Using numbers from Colorado's storefront model, Lisa Campbell of Women Grow Toronto estimates that dispensaries would raise some $30 million in annual tax revenues and licensing fees for the city.

However, not everyone in attendance supported a storefront model.

“I’ve yet to find a compassionate dispensary in Toronto,” says Konstantino Beltsis of the organization Patience First.

He argues that dispensaries focusing on profit instead of medpot patients make access to medical marijuana financially impossible, their prices too high for most individuals to afford. Even purchasing from a Licensed Producer would cost him $60,000 each year, he says.

Beltsis’ mother, also in attendance at the meeting, says six police officers showed up at her house once to confiscate the 11 marijuana plants she was growing for her son.

The city’s licensing committee is scheduled to meet again October 25 to look at the issue of storefront regulation.

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto
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by papapuff » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:32 pm

The Marijuana Times



Sacrificing Freedom for Cannabis: An Interview with Chris Goodwin

By Joe Klare - Aug 8, 2016

Those of you who follow what’s going on in the cannabis industry may have heard about a recent series of raids on marijuana dispensaries in Toronto. The raids have led to arrests of dozens of people and the confiscation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in product and equipment.

The day after his Cannabis Culture shop was raided, Canadian activist and marijuana entrepreneur Marc Emery reopened the dispensary and installed himself behind the counter. Emery had previously spent 5 years in U.S. federal prison for the crime of selling cannabis seeds.

“The people want it,” Emery told reporters outside the shop that day. “As long as we have true believers who are willing to go to jail for our cause, as I am, then we will continue to open and defy the punishment that the City of Toronto — under the federal government — is giving us.”

The foundation of the cannabis activist community is the activists who are willing to go to jail – to sacrifice their very freedom – to advance the cause of liberty for all marijuana users. One of those activists is Chris Goodwin, a man who is no stranger to being arrested and jailed over the cannabis plant.

Chris is an activist and business owner based in Toronto and is connected with the raids that have been executed recently. His wife, Erin, was working as a manager at the Cannabis Culture dispensary on the day of the raid and spent the night in a Toronto jail.

I recently got a chance to talk with Chris about his career in activism, what’s been going down in Toronto and more!

The Marijuana Times: What were you told about cannabis growing up?

Chris Goodwin: Growing up I was told cannabis was addictive and would lead to hard drug abuse. That the high would never be good enough, and would force the user to search for greater highs.

MT: How did you get involved in cannabis activism in the beginning?

CG: In 1995, a friend named Rob Barham gave me the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer. It changed my life, and I became a hemp activist.

In 1997, I was arrested, and it caused me to search out other forms of activism, which I found Cannabis Culture. Marc Emery encouraged me to engage in civil disobedience.

In 1999, I organized my first 4/20 Smoke Out, getting arrested publicly.

In 2001, 4/20 smoke outs were doing well, so I opened a cannabis cafe, that got raided the first week.

In 2003, I opened the Up In Smoke Cafe, which was raided 4 times in 3 years, and had hundreds of police visits.

In 2007, I opened Vapor Central in Toronto, and organized Toronto’s first 4/20 smoke out in Yonge Dundas Square…

2016, Good Weeds, Cannabis Culture…

MT: How many times have you been arrested? What was your longest stretch of time in custody?

CG: I have been arrested 14 times, on 38 separate charges since 1997, all for cannabis. I have spent a few stretches of 3 weeks, once I was held for 3 months on remand, and one 6 month sentence. Mostly overnight, or under a week. Almost a year in custody in total.

MT: How did you get involved with Vapor Central?

CG: An Amsterdam cafe, or cafes in general, are traditionally open to the public, customers just walk in, sit down, order. Marc Emery had the New Amsterdam Cafe, Abi had the Hot Box.

Cafes also require a lot of overhead. And so much time is spent providing food services, and little time providing cannabis services.

So when my first cannabis cafe was raided the first week, and I opened Up In Smoke Cafe 2 years later, I added the concept of a private membership based vapor lounge.

Behind a closed door. Pre-paid. Leather couches. With vaporizers included. Event based. Comedy, podcasts, etc. There would be totally cannabis services. Bong rentals, dab rigs, rolling trays, papers, grinders, etc.

When Up In Smoke Cafe finally closed, I felt the vapor lounge concept was what should be expanded. So I opened Vapor Central.

MT: What are some of your favorite moments from Vapor Central?

CG: My favorite moments were producing all the live shows, over 1,500 episodes in total over 9 years. Stoner Sundays, The Sarah Hanlon Show & The CK Potcast Mondays, The Mernahuana Zone Tuesdays, Weedy Wednesdays and 3rd Klass Thursdays.

MT: What has been going down in Toronto when it comes to police and cannabis shops?

CG: In Toronto, vapor lounges have operated successfully for the last 10 years. Neither the City of Toronto, nor Toronto Police have enforced any laws or by laws against vapor lounges.

The Province of Ontario has added a ban on vaporizing in public to the Ontario Smoke Free Act. Some lounges are concerned by law fines.

Although all vapor lounges in Toronto, and others in Ontario, have municipal business licenses, zoned as Retail and Food Stuffs in most cases.

Dispensaries have been targeted by Toronto by Law inspectors for failure to have a business license, and Toronto Police have Operation Claudia, arresting owners and employees for possession for the purpose of trafficking and proceeds of crime. Most or many have reopened.

MT: What are your thoughts on how the Trudeau Government has handled legalization so far?

CG: Very poorly. From our perspective, slow or non-existent.

Although I have always been a Repeal Activist. I am not too concerned with what regulations legalization has, in each province, or each city.

I am only concerned that the prohibitions on cannabis are repealed from the criminal code.

But for legalization to work, it has to be inclusive and based on science.

MT: What are you currently working on or involved with in terms of the cannabis industry?

CG: In January, my wife Erin Goodwin and I opened Good Weeds, a lounge on The Danforth that sold recreational vapor bags, bong hits, and dabs, to all adults, 18+.

We are now working with Cannabis Culture on Queens Street, to sell recreational cannabis, hash, and cannabis oil to all adults. And helping open CC lounges in Toronto.

My wife is the Manager of Cannabis Culture. I am also Editor of Pot TV. We both still organize 4/20 in Yonge Dundas Square every year.

The sacrifice that activists like Chris Goodwin make is not measurable. They give time out of their life – a year in Chris’ case – in order to fight cannabis prohibition, something that has ruined tens of millions of lives. That is a year Chris can never get back, given in the fight to end this ruinous war against non-violent people.

No one should go to jail if they are not infringing on the rights of someone else. That is the standard by which all “crimes” should be measured. Maybe someday countries like the United States and Canada will get back to that standard.

In the meantime, people like Chris, his wife Erin, and thousands of other cannabis activists will continue to go to jail for standing up for their rights. They sacrifice their freedom for all of us. We must not let their sacrifices be in vain.

Legalization must come, sooner rather than later.
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