Article by Matthew Van Dongen, Hamilton Spectator
Police are cracking down on illegal storefront pot shops across Hamilton even as dispensary advocates prepare for “roundtable” discussions with city officials about their future.
Operators of five MMJ and Pacifico medical marijuana dispensaries — spread across the lower city and on the Mountain — told The Spectator they were raided by police late last week.
Britney Guerra, a vocal dispensary advocate and former owner, said she has heard from four other raided shops — one as recently as Monday — but none of those operators were willing to speak to The Spectator.
“Dispensary raids in #HamOnt across the city. Guessing the @HamiltonPolice drug squad dealt with the fentanyl crisis,” she tweeted.
Spokesperson Const. Lorraine Edwards said police used warrants to search “numerous” dispensaries last week, but added the service would not reveal how many sites were raided, the affected locations or if anyone was charged. She would not say why police withheld that information.
As of January, there were at least 46 operating illegal pot shops in Hamilton. As of last October, police had raided, seized product and laid charges at 10 outlets in total, with nine of them reopening.
Tamara Hirsh of Pacifico said the dispensary’s Westdale and James Street North locations were raided late last week, but have reopened. Hirsh said via email she believed the raids are happening on government orders ahead of marijuana legalization expected in July. The province has said it will only allow storefront recreational pot sales from LCBO-run outlets.
“If they think this will make a dent in the (46 existing dispensaries) stores in Hamilton, they’re wrong. Just wait to see how many stores we’re going to have over the next few months leading up to legalization and then even more to come beyond that,” she wrote.