An illegal pot shop crackdown that cost Hamilton police $600,000 has so far resulted in court fines that are mostly less than $500 per convicted person.
A new report going to Hamilton’s police oversight board says it cost $602,000 to close, and in some cases seize, 53 illegal dispensaries since October 2018.
The year-long crackdown included a provincial enforcement team, 145 individuals charged and the seizure of 28 buildings to stop illegal shops from reopening after police raids.
By contrast, court penalties for those convicted have been “quite lenient” so far, Supt. Ryan Diodati recently told police board members.
Diodati said federal charges dealt with so far have resulted in fines ranging from $100 to $500. The highest individual fine levied so far, under new provincial cannabis legislation, was $6,200.
Police spokesperson Jackie Penman emphasized Wednesday the vast majority of dispensary crackdown charges have yet to be dealt with in court, including those aimed at landlords. A total fine amount was not immediately available.
But the apparent disparity in penalties compared to enforcement costs has still enraged local politicians who sit on the police board.
At the last board meeting, Coun. Tom Jackson called the fines “pitiful” and “mind-boggling.” He suggested the courts have “gone soft” on illegal pot operations despite new provincial laws that allow for fines of up to $250,000 and jail time for operators or landlords.