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Toronto Cops Threatened a Completely Legal Doctor’s Office, Thinking it was a Pot Dispensary

They don't even have weed on site.
Photo by Seb FoxAllen.

Toronto police and city officials targeted a 100 percent legal medical clinic as part of Project Claudia.

Canadian Cannabis Clinics, which authorize patients to receive medical marijuana under the Health Canada-approved program, received three letters—two from the city's licensing and standards department and one from police—suggesting its locations on the Danforth and in Etobicoke are breaking the law.


"Please be advised that persons identified as participants in the aforementioned unlawful activities will be subject to enforcement, which may include the laying of charges under the Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act," reads the letter from police dated May 26, the day cops carried out 43 dispensary raids across the city as part of Project Claudia. Police sent out similar letters to the pot shops they raided.

Meanwhile, the city sent out notices of a zoning violation to the clinic and its landlords, stating that an "investigation" determined the properties were illegally "being used for marihuana distribution." Those notices threatened fines of up to $50,000 unless the clinics stopped "illegal use of [the] property" within three days.

Clinic director Ronan Levy told VICE he was caught off guard when he received the letters and feared the clinics could be raided.

"When you try and do everything the proper way, try to be buckled up… and you still get caught up into a mess, you're still kind of surprised," Levy said. Because there is no marijuana on site at the clinics, a raid would've yielded "a whole bunch of paperwork, some medical beds, a water cooler," he added.

Levy immediately reached out to the city but said he didn't get a response right away; he said he spent much of Thursday and Friday last week explaining to the cops and the city that the clinics are completely above board.


He said he received a phone call from Detective Steve Watts, who is in charge of Project Claudia, in which Watts said some frontline officers don't have an understanding of all the laws that are applicable when it comes to medical marijuana in Canada. Levy said police were accommodating and told him if the clinic hadn't already been raided, he likely didn't have anything to worry about.

The Toronto police did not respond to request for comment on this story.

A spokesperson for the city told VICE the municipal licensing and standards department received "numerous complaints from residents, businesses and councillors' offices expressing concern about what they believed were marihuana dispensaries across the city" and as such the clinic was issued a letter but charges weren't laid when they realized the clinic is not in fact a dispensary.

Speaking to VICE Monday, police spokesman Mark Pugash declined to comment on how much money the cops spent executing Project Claudia, but said the investigation in ongoing.

As for the criticism that the crackdown has left patients without access to medication, he said "there are legitimate sources that are available that have been set up by the government and anything else is outside of the law."

Pugash told VICE "public safety issues" such as dispensaries' proximity to schools and sales of marijuana to minors led to the crackdown. However, he did not provide any concrete examples of minors accessing marijuana through dispensaries.

The federal government is set to roll out marijuana legalization legislation next spring.

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