Article by David Brown, Lift News
In the wake of the recent raids of the Canna Clinic chain in Project Lincoln, Lift had a chance to interview Mark Pugash, Toronto Police Director of Corporate Communications, to discuss Toronto Police Services (TPS) approach to prioritization of enforcement against dispensaries.
The Project Lincoln raids took place starting on Thursday, July 22, with 80 employees arrested. On Wednesday, June 28th, TPS raided a Canna Clinic location for a second time after it reopened. Canna Clinic lists seven Toronto locations and six British Columbia locations on their website, including four in Vancouver.
TPS has been aggressively targeting Toronto dispensaries since they unleashed Project Claudia in May, 2016, with the execution of over 40 warrants following warnings from Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards Division and visits from city inspectors earlier that month.
At least six employees and owners have plead guilty so far in charges related to the Project Claudia raids. Pugash says TPS has only targeted dispensary owners and employees, not customers.
Our conversation is below.
Is Project Lincoln ongoing? There was a second raid of Canna Clinic again this week.
“I wouldn’t be confused by the project names. This all comes under the enforcement activities we’ve undertaken since May of last year and some of them have had project names, but it’s all enforcement of the law which started towards the end of May of last year with what we called Project Claudia, when we executed in excess of 40 warrants. So i wouldn’t be mislead by project names. This is all under the general heading of enforcement of the laws against illegal dispensaries.”
Where does a project name come from? Why do some have project names and some don’t?
“For example, if you are targeting a group of people, the bigger ones tend to be called projects, but divisions will execute warrants against one or two dispensaries and those are smaller operations so they don’t have project names. Project names tend to be reserved for larger scale, but the thing they all share in common is enforcing the law against illegal dispensaries.”
Can you talk about what goes into a project like this, how much time there was investigating prior to the actual raids?
“Well, any time you’re coordinating with the Vancouver area, then it does take some time to plan these. I’m sure you understand why the warrants have to be executed, to the extent that it’s possible, at the same time. So that requires staff and it also requires coordination, evidence gathering, warrants and other things. So that is a significant undertaking that would have taken considerable planning and preparation.”
“We haven’t gone after any customers. In all the warrants we’ve executed, we haven’t arrested a single customer. We are targeting the people who we believe are behind these businesses, people who are making large amounts of money selling products that apparently have no quality control.” – Mark Pugash, Toronto Police Director of Corporate Communications,
“Whenever we have a project that involves jurisdictions outside Toronto, it might be in the areas just outside Toronto, it might be further afield, but it’s the same. We’re working with other agencies in a common project, we have a lot of experience doing that, in fact most of the projects that we do, almost by definition, go beyond the Toronto boundaries, so we are very experienced in working with a wide variety of agencies. We had a project a couple weeks ago which involved 19 different law enforcement agencies. This is something that goes and and has gone on in Canada for some considerable time.”