Toronto spent more than $350K putting concrete blocks in front of illegal weed stores
It would appear as though the City of Toronto's unusual strategy for shutting down illegal cannabis stores over the summer — you know, by blocking off their entrances with giant concrete blocks — was not only ineffective but incredibly costly.
CAFE, Toronto's most profitable and infamous illegal dispensary chain by far, managed to thwart bylaw enforcement officers at every turn by either having staff remove the bricks themselves, or by declaring their stores as "residences" and forcing the city to do it.
Enforcement officials did eventually graduate from issuing closure notices and installing concrete blocks outside illegal pot shops to arranging full on police raids, which resulted in at least nine people being arrested and charged under the Cannabis Control Act this summer.
CAFE continues to operate four locations in Toronto without cannabis retail licenses, however, and without blocks in front of their entrances.
Meanwhile, City of Toronto senior communications advisor Alex Burke told the Star that the department of Municipal Licensing and Standards is still enforcing the Cannabis Control Act, despite Ontario's government finally opening up the cannabis retail market to all.
I still do not understand who decided the best solution for illegal pot shops was buying a bunch of giant concrete blocks. Somewhere there’s gotta be a government email that starts, “okay, this is going to sound weird as hell, but hear me out…” https://t.co/f1ClSSmHZh— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) January 21, 2020
Burke also revealed to the Star that CAFE stores were specifically targeted in the city's initial rash of concrete blockings because the stores were thought to be pulling in millions of illegal dollars at the time.
She explained that the more than $350,000 spent on cement block installations (split between labour, security, engineering and the cost of blocks) didn't come out of the city's own budget.
"The city has received monies from the provincial government to support the establishment and implementation of an enforcement strategy for cannabis in the city of Toronto," she said.
How "lets block their doors with concrete slabs" became an official enforcement strategy remains unknown.
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