We check out two new Toronto cafés that of­fer space for cats and dogs to play along­side their hu­man friends

De­spite be­ing ab­so­lutely il­le­gal, the city is now home to dozens of mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions

Midtown Post - - Table of Contents - By Ryan Ayukawa

What’s a grey mar­ket? When it comes to med­i­cal mar­i­juana, there is only one way to get it legally, and that is by courier from a pro­ducer li­censed un­der Health Canada’s Med­i­cal Mar­i­huana for Med­i­cal Pur­poses Reg­u­la­tions (MMPR) re­vised in 2014. Ev­ery­thing else — the store­front dis­pen­saries pre­tend­ing to be med­i­cal clin­ics, the va­p­ing lounges, the com­pas­sion clubs — is il­le­gal.

This is fact. The only rea­son there is a grey area seems to be be­cause ev­ery­one knows mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion is com­ing, but the coun­try is in a wait­ing pe­riod un­til the fed­eral govern­ment de­cides how to make good on its le­gal­iza­tion cam­paign prom­ise.

So, there is a wild west of sorts with some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties choos­ing to be more ac­cept­ing of grey mar­ket ac­tiv­i­ties than oth­ers.

Van­cou­ver has dozens of so-called dis­pen­saries. The city is even start­ing to fig­ure out how to prop­erly li­cence the es­tab­lish­ments to try to get some sort of con­trol. The town of Kim­ber­ley, out­side Van­cou­ver, be­came the first mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the coun­try to is­sue a busi­ness li­cence to an il­le­gal dis­pen­sary. Mon­treal and Toronto, though far be­hind their West Coast cousins, are in dan­ger of be­ing over­run by th­ese op­er­a­tions as they have al­ready be­gun to move out of down­town into neigh­bour­hoods such as For­est Hill and Riverdale.

The grey mar­ket dis­pen­saries and the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties therein are close to schools and fami- lies and other main street busi­nesses. So, now what?

Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice con­tends that th­ese op­er­a­tions are il­le­gal and if they hear about them or get com­plaints they will fol­low up.

This might be true in Rich­mond Hill, where York Re­gional Po­lice shut down two op­er­a­tions — Can­naClubs and Can­nib­liss — lick­ety-split when they opened up late last year, but some dis­pen­saries in Toronto are to­tally op­er­at­ing in the open, ad­ver­tis­ing even. Th­ese aren’t back­room speak-easys and they aren’t dif­fi­cult to find.

TPS states, “The Med­i­cal Mar­i­huana Pro­duc­ers Regulation do not al­low for th­ese store­front type op­er­a­tions. The Ser­vice has been, and will con­tinue, to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints about th­ese dis­pen­saries and make ar­rests/lay charges, in­clud­ing ones for traf­fick­ing, if ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Post City un­cov­ered a dis­pe­nary slated to open on Eglin­ton in For­est Hill just by word of mouth. The source, a lo­cal busi­ness owner who chose to re­main anony­mous, con­firmed that his land­lord had told him it will open. And they don’t seem to mind much. It might help that there are al­ready dis­pen­saries op­er­at­ing in the area, one has been there for years. The Chair of the York-Eglin­ton BIA, Nick Al­pami, was sur­prised to hear of an­other new dis­pen­sary com­ing to 1478 Eglin­ton Ave. West.

He had not heard any news of “York Dis­pen- sary” which has an­nounced on­line a Jan­uary 2016 open­ing. That ad­dress had pre­vi­ously been Dream Cy­clery. Al­pami was un­able to com­ment on the dis­pen­sary since he had no knowl­edge of it. Calls to other busi­nesses and one school in the area re­ceived a no com­ment re­ply on the dis­pen­sary.

A dis­pen­sary at Mar­lee Av­enue and View­mount is called Med­i­calClub.

Their web­site lists prod­uct avail­able for med­i­cal use only and not to be opened within two blocks of their venue. No MMPR or med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner info is listed and a phone call to them re­ceived a no com­ment re­ply.

“Ab­so­lutely shut them down.,” said Ro­nan Levy, di­rec­tor of Cana­dian Cannabis Clin­ics, a med­i­cal clinic with 10 On­tario lo­ca­tions that spe­cial­izes in pre­scrib­ing mar­i­juana that is pro­vided via mail by a li­cenced pro­ducer via the MMPR. “There are many rea­sons why we feel this way. The first and fore­most is pub­lic health and safety. Cannabis sold through dis­pen­saries is not sub­ject to any qual­ity con­trol, qual­ity as­sur­ance or screen­ing. It could be laced with pes­ti­cides, heavy me­tals, mould and other drugs.”

Stacey Dowswell is a par­ent and web de­vel­oper who lives within a short dis­tance of the soon to open York Dis­pen­sary and the one on Mar­lee. She’s aware the neigh­bour­hood is chang­ing with new busi­nesses, con­dos, and the LRT. For her, a dis­pen­sary doesn’t bother her and is bet­ter than an empty store­front.

“As a par­ent, I don’t see this [dis­pen­saries] as a con­cern, but I tend to be more of the mind­set that hid­ing such things from my kids is a dis­ser­vice. If/when mar­i­juana is le­gal­ized, I would pre­fer my chil­dren were not stig­ma­tized by the idea that pot is a hor­ri­ble thing that should be avoided like the plague.”

She adds, “It’s my job as a par­ent to ed­u­cate my kids as to how to ap­proach what such busi­nesses of­fer with ap­pro­pri­ate un­der­stand­ing and re­spect.”

When Post City spoke with Chris Good­win, owner of the Good Weeds Lounge on Dan­forth Av­enue, he said that he be­lieves con­sumers of mar­i­juana and lo­ca­tions of dis­pen­saries should be out in the open, rather than hid­den. “Why shouldn’t we be more open? We need to nor­mal­ize and re­move the stigma and shame from cannabis users and al­low ac­cess to their medicine or con­sume it,” he said. “Dis­pen­saries and lounges are all an im­por­tant part of this in­dus­try.”

The Good Weeds Lounge lo­ca­tion is ad­ver­tised on­line. A few days af­ter we spoke to Good­win, the lounge was raided by po­lice. Good­win, a long-time mar­i­juana ac­tivist, and one other per­son at the dis­pen­sary have re­port­edly been taken into po­lice cus­tody. Good­win pre­vi­ously man­aged Va­por Cen­tral on Yonge and the Up In Smoke Café in Hamil­ton. Both lo­ca­tions were raided by po­lice.

Some es­ti­mate to mar­i­juana mar­ket to be as big as $5 bil­lion na­tion­wide. When the fed­eral govern­ment es­tab­lishes guide­lines for mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion, there will be a fight over who con­trols the in­dus­try and peo­ple are lin­ing up to get their share. Dis­pen­saries ap­pear to be no dif­fer­ent, putting in the leg work now, the very risky and il­le­gal leg­work, to get a foothold with the ex­pec­ta­tion of a pay­day.

Cur­rently, there is only con­fu­sion and a grow­ing sea of grey spread­ing across the city.

Clock­wise from left: Chris God­win (l) and a Good Weeds Lounge staff mem­ber, Toronto po­lice of­fi­cer rides by med­i­cal mar­i­juana clinicon Dan­forth Av­enue, Rich­mond Hill’s now-shut­tered dis­pen­sary

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