May 26th 2016 is being referred to as Black Thursday in the Toronto cannabis community. While cannabis advocates were attending a press conference regarding the regulation of medical cannabis dispensaries, the attendees were informed that the Toronto Police Service was executing 43 search warrants throughout Toronto on allegedly unlawful storefronts selling cannabis and cannabis-infused products.
On May 27, during his press conference, Chief Mark Saunders indicated that Project Claudia was launched due to 40-50 complaints being made by citizens. According to Chief Saunders, as a result of Project Claudia, 91 people were arrested and more than 250 criminal charges were laid. As for items seized, there were 269 kilos of dry cannabis flower, 30 kilos of cannabis resin, 24 kilos of cannabis hash, 27 kilos of marijuana and THC pills as well as “massive amounts of edibles” and $167,000.00 in cash.
In February 2016, Justice Phelan in the Allard decision deemed the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations unconstitutional and validated the role dispensaries play in providing patients with access to medical cannabis. He gave the federal government until August 24th 2016 to amend the MMPR to respect our rights and freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With a change expected in but a few months, the use of millions of tax payer dollars in resources to launch and execute Project Claudia in questionable.
This sweep leaves a significant void in dignified access for patients in Toronto. It seems that the most vulnerable have been forgotten yet again. Should you live in Toronto, we invite you to contact your city Councillor to voice your concerns with the measures taken by the TPS and the lack of consultation with the dispensaries by the City of Toronto.