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FOCUS: Police raid Café weed dispensary on Harbord (August 2019)

September 2nd, 2019 · No Comments

City installs concrete blockade of entrance

By Juan Romero

A shop belonging to the chain Cannabis and Fine Edibles on Harbord Street has been raided by police numerous times over the summer. Similarly to other Café locations raided by police, these raids have proved largely ineffective — with the shops managing to be up and running in less than 24 hours following each one.

On July 9, Toronto police raided the Café location at 104 Harbord St., just off Spadina. In the operation they seized large amounts of marijuana and bags that presumably contained edibles. All the workers and a man who claimed to be a tenant from the second floor of the location were escorted out.

According to the director of investigation services for municipal licensing and standards Mark Sraga, the initial plan was to place concrete blocks in front of the entrance of the shop to prevent future break-ins; however, this did not happen as the overhead wires made it impossible for the crane to manoeuvre the blocks safely.

Soon after the raid a few black SUVs were spotted by residents and business owners in the area. Witnesses say these would frequently drop by the shop and pick up customers to presumably take them to different Café locations. On Wednesday, the Café location on Harbord was running like nothing happened.

Sraga was aware that it was very possible for re-entry to occur because of previous experiences with other Café shops that had been raided.

“We know they are not going to close up and go away, because they have done it in other locations where we’ve done closure orders and barring of entry,” he said following the raid.

Most of the raided locations have had tenants living above the shops. This prevents police from sealing the entrance by law, therefore making it easier for the workers to access the building and resume business once police officers are gone. It seems that the Café was using this strategy as a legal loophole.

However, this past June the provincial government passed amendments to patch the loophole. This caused the tenant at the Café on Harbord Jeff Brodie to be removed from the premises. He was very upset with the police and the city.

“I’ve lived above the Cafe for two years. I don’t have anything to do with downstairs, I work, I am a subcontractor, I get cheap rent here, I can’t find anywhere else to go tonight, I am sleeping on a park bench, I have nowhere else to go. And this is what the city has done to me? It’s not right,” said Brodie.

Residents of Harbord Street and surrounding areas have expressed mixed reactions to the situation. Café customers strongly support the establishment. A customer, who identified himself as Mark, said that it is a great place with excellent service.

“It’s a shame they want to shut this place down. I don’t get it, why is it legal for some and illegal for others? This whole thing just seems like persecution to me. I have been coming here for the last few months and I have nothing but praise for this place,” says Mark.

Harbord resident and former area business owner Sue Purvis expressed the belief that the dispensary is destroying the neighbourhood. In a statement sent to various councillors and to police, Purvis said that she is unimpressed by the authorities’ inability to close the Café down for good.

“During the few hours that they were closed they were able to regroup, and most importantly restock. How is this possible? Are police not stationed around the building to intercept these deliveries? Where is the stock coming from? They would not be able to source a legal grow op, so it must be illegal. Can these not then be seized?”

Mark Sraga told the press that they will continue to keep coming back to close Café locations if needed. He claims that the locations are selling an illegal product that poses a risk for people who are consuming it, as it is unclear as to what the products contain.

“We are making tremendous progress on the issue of compliance,” says Sraga. “And hopefully in the near future, when the new provincially licensed stores start opening, that will help.”

In early August the police raided the location again, placing concrete blocks at the entrance to prevent entry. Time will tell whether the closure will be permanent or not.

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