Twelve High Chicks thanks regular guest contributor Tracy Curley for this timely, firsthand account. We hope she, and all of our friends in Toronto, remain safe while continuing to fight for patients’ rights and access. 

Toronto is still in turmoil after the Project Claudia raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. Stakeholders met this past Tuesday, June 7th, to prepare for the raids that are rumoured still to come. Meanwhile Canada waits for legalization of recreational pot to be introduced in the spring of 2017.

It’s been about two weeks since the raids and three since the city began its bylaw efforts. In the Project Claudia raids aftermath many dispensaries have closed, some have since reopened as a sign of rebellion, and still new dispensaries are opening every day — including two new Cannabis Culture stores who, in an open act of civil disobedience, are selling recreational marijuana to anyone over the age of nineteen.

I called the “Project Claudia Preparedness and Response” meeting for Toronto dispensary owners and staff after media reports that the owner of one café caught up in the Project Claudia raids claimed not to know that marijuana was still illegal. I wanted to make sure that these young or otherwise unaware people knew what they were in for, in a city with a long history of enforcement against cannabis dispensaries. Regardless of the rumours of further raids being true or not, we wanted to ensure that everyone was educated and informed about their rights and the importance of running a friendly, community involved dispensary.

Photo Courtesy of Sean Brady @Shivnibble

By the time we began the meeting there was standing room only at the Hotbox Cafe in Kensington Market.

Abi Roach, owner of the Hotbox Cafe, spoke on behalf of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association about our need to lobby all levels of government to ensure established cannabis businesses are given the opportunity to transition into the legal market. Currently, the Liberal government is focusing on the opinions of those who have been traditionally adversarial to marijuana use.

We heard firsthand from Daniel, one of the owners of a dispensary raided in Project Claudia, as well as from Sandra and Amy, who earned their experience after a series of raids on Toronto’s Cannabis As Living Medicine (CALM).

Sandra reminded us that even dispensaries that do follow CAMCD and industry standards may still very well be raided and those who don’t follow set protocols have left themselves open to enforcement. These protocols include maintaining proper records (not on site, they may be seized), limiting inventory (over 3kg including edibles and packaging could result in trafficking charges) and cash on hand, acting only as a medical dispensary, and ensuring patients treat the neighbourhood with respect.

Amy instructed parents and those with dependents to have a Plan A and a Plan B in place regarding child and pet care — always have someone on alert to care for dependents, and keep children informed — as well as what they could expect after a raid when the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) may, mostly likely, be knocking on their door — no one is obligated to divulge everything about themselves, neither should they fear speaking up in defense of actions that hold no danger to their children.

Then we heard advice from lawyers Kirk Tousaw and Paul Lewin about what staff, owners, and patients need to expect from police should their location be targeted: questions (and we all have the right to remain silent), arrests or promises to appear for those with clean records/detention for those with records, charges including possession with intent and proceeds of crime, seizure of everything on site from business records to pop cans.

Less legal advice to remember during a raid is to FUCK it:
Find the owner
Unlock the doors
Clear out your patients
Keep calm.

Photo courtesy of Sean Brady @Shivnibble

It’s not just dispensaries in Ontario that have reason to be concerned. This week many activists, patients, and business owners filled the gallery as the Bill 178 Amendment passed its third reading at Queen’s Park.

The Smoke Free Ontario Act makes no distinction between cigarettes or e-cigarette vaporizers, seen by many as a harm reduction tool for those addicted to nicotine. Neither does the bill make allowances for legal medical cannabis patients, putting vapour lounges — our safe inhalation spaces — at risk and putting cannabis user back on the sidewalk. Vaporizers designed as medical devices for patients will now be banned from not just within hospitals but from hospital properties as well.

More information about the situation can be found on Facebook through the Cannabis Friendly Business Association’s page.

Watch Twelve High Chicks for updates on Bill 178 and the Project Claudia raids as we learn more.