Waterloo Region Police Set To Target Illegal Cannabis Sales

Article by Lisa Rutledge, Cambridge Times

Waterloo Region police set to target illegal cannabis sales Increase in illegal cannabis sale storefronts anticipated thanks to widening of 'grey market' NEWS 01:20 PM by Lisa Rutledge Cambridge Times An illegal cannabis store in Preston, closed down three times by Waterloo Region police, was cited as an example of an ongoing issue involving illegal cannabis storefront sales. - Lisa Rutledge/Metroland A sign on the front of an illegal cannabis store on King Street in Preston indicates the business is closed. The storefront was closed down three times by police. - Lisa Rutledge/Metroland

Waterloo Region’s police service is realigning its drug investigative and enforcement teams to tackle an anticipated increase in illegal cannabis dispensary storefronts in the wake of legislation pushing back legal privatized sales of recreational cannabis.

In addressing the Waterloo Regional Police Services board in its monthly meeting Sept. 12, Chief Bryan Larkin gave board members notice the service will be reigniting efforts to shut down illegal cannabis dispensaries in the region.

“I will give the board a heads up,” Larkin said. “We have shifted our focus to illegal dispensaries again. They’re popping up.”

Although the service’s drug and firearms investigative and enforcement teams had made shuttering of illegal cannabis storefront sales a front burner priority over the last year, the chief explained changes in Ontario’s legislation could result in an increase in illegal cannabis retail sales.

As of Oct. 17, federal and provincial cannabis legislation goes into effect, making it legal for those aged 19 and older to buy and consume recreational cannabis. However, Ontarians will only be able to purchase it online via the province’s Ontario Cannabis Store. If legislation is passed, tightly regulated retail storefronts will become legal, but not until April 2019.

That gap between legalized online purchases and much later legal privatized retail models will leave the door open for grey market opportunities, warns the chief.

“Not everybody will be able to go online, not everybody has access to a credit card, and so there will still be a grey market,” he explained. “And that grey market will pop up through dispensaries, which will get citizen complaints, which will require us to take action.”

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