Article by Randi Druzin, Leafly
Rick Vrecic was working behind the counter at his medical marijuana dispensary in Toronto one day last week when he looked up and saw three men breaking into the building. He thought he was being robbed. But when a group of uniformed police officers burst into the dispensary seconds later, he realized it was a raid.
Officers threw him to ground and put handcuffs on him. “Where’s the Rotty?” they demanded, referring to the service dog owned by one of the dispensary’s volunteers. “Where is it?” The dog wasn’t there. Rick was taken to the police station and the dispensary was shuttered.
The experience was unsettling but not unusual. It was just the latest incident in an ongoing conflict between Toronto authorities and the dispensaries seeking business licenses similar to those granted to their counterparts in a handful of other Canadian cities.
Vrecic gave up opiates and turned to marijuana to treat chronic back pain years ago. He credits cannabis with saving his life and he felt good about providing it to other people with medical conditions.. The police raid and subsequent closure of the store was a major setback. “I’m now prevented from helping people,” he told Leafly. “I’m heartbroken.”
Source of the conflict: limited licenses
The conflict dates back to 2000, when an Ontario court invalidated the prohibition of cannabis for medical purposes. The federal government soon set guidelines for individuals to grow cannabis or purchase it through Health Canada. In 2013, the federal government decided to allow some big producers to grow medical marijuana and it banned individuals from growing their own. Ottawa lifted that ban last August, in response to another court decision.
So far, the government has granted licenses to almost 40 large-scale producers. These companies, known as licensed producers (LPs), send their products to patients exclusively through the mail. The federal government has not offered licenses to storefront dispensaries. (Editor’s note: Leafly’s parent company, Privateer Holdings, also owns Tilray, which is a Canadian licensed producer.)