illegal weed toronto

Illegal cannabis stores are starting to reopen in Toronto

It's been 11 months since weed was officially legalized for recreational use in Canada, and yet, Ontario's government has still only authorized 25 stores across the province to sell it.

That's 25 legal brick and mortar cannabis retailers for a population of more than 14 million people... oh, and one glitchy, government-run website with questionable product standards.

Many in the industry have criticized the Ontario government for royally bungling the rollout of legal cannabis in Canada's most populous province.

Between OCS website troubles, the failure of many retail stores to open on time, the loss of $42 million, and the court-imposed halt of a process to licence 42 additional stores amidst accusations of unfairness, they've got plenty of fodder for their arguments — and some are tired of arguing.

At least three shops in Toronto were proudly selling weed on Saturday in direct defiance of the law.

Two of those stores were locations of CAFE, a notorious, Toronto-based pot shop chain that's been subject to dozens of raids and closure notices in recent months.

The other was Cannabis & Coffee at 346 Front St. W., where smokers lined up all day to receive free vouchers for $100 worth of marijuana.

Cannabis & Coffee owner Chris James told the CBC on Saturday that his very public display — complete with a live band — was meant to highlight the provincial government's errors on the legalization front and offer solutions.

"We keep hearing about a supply shortage [and] that's why there's no more stores being opened," said James. "If there's a supply shortage, there's thousands of growers that the government authorized to be medical growers that should be allowed to grow for recreational people as well."

James, who earlier this year filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against Ontario's PC government for business losses, also owns an unlicenced marijuana delivery service called Weedora.

The weed vouchers his employees were handing out on Saturday and Sunday were for weed delivery services, so no actual marijuana was being purchased (at least not conspicuously) at the store.

At CAFE on St. Clair, things were different: Employees managed to remove the cement blocks installed by city workers last month and turn on their 'open' sign. Customers were seen going in and out of the dispensary, which sells both weed and edibles, all weekend.

Cement blocks remain stacked outside CAFE's other three locations in Toronto, though sales don't appear to have ceased.

People can still be seen waiting outside the illegal dispensaries on Fort York, Harbord Street and Bloor Street every single day, sometimes under shade tents.

CAFE continues to advertise itself as "open" on social media and is even in the running to get an official retail cannabis licence for its Harbord Street location.

"There will have to be 350 dead bodies on the street before CAFE closes [winking face emoji]," wrote a representative for the chain by email in July.

It seems as though CAFE is sticking to its word, regardless of what Toronto Police and bylaw enforcement officers say.

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