Article by Nicole O’Reilly, The Hamilton Spectator
For the first time, Hamilton police have shuttered an illegal cannabis dispensary in the city’s east end, changing the locks and installing an alarm, under new powers granted by the Ontario Cannabis Act.
Hamilton police had expressed wariness about using the new legislation, but standing in front of HaZe at 1917 King St. E. Friday morning, Deputy Chief Dan Kinsella said police made the move after examining the act and consulting with the Ministry of the Attorney General, legal counsel and the OPP.
“Based on that review and that consultation, we decided as a team to move forward with the closure of the premises today,” he said, calling the move “risk management.”
In the past, raided pot shops often reopened a day or two after a bust, but police believe the new legislation can put a stop to that cycle.
So around 10 a.m. Friday, officers from the newly formed Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team, which includes three seconded Hamilton officers, walked through the doors of HaZe with a warrant. The Hamilton Spectator and other local media were invited to watch what unfolded.
“I think it’s important that we get the message out to the public that we take this situation and this issue very, very seriously,” Kinsella said.
Four people were charged during the raid and police seized suspected dried cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis shatter, edibles, cash, an ATM and THC-infused bath bombs, said Ontario Provincial Police, which leads the cannabis team.
A 27-year-old Hamilton woman, 24-year-old Burlington man, 30-year-old Hamilton woman and 38-year-old Hamilton man are each facing charges of possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling under the federal Cannabis Act, and possession of property obtained by crime under the Criminal Code.
There are about 34 illegal dispensaries operating in Hamilton — a figure that constantly fluctuates. Currently, legal cannabis can only be purchased online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, with the first 25 legal storefronts selected by lottery opening in April.