Article by Jason Miller, Yahoo News
Police say a number of illicit cannabis operations can be linked to violence in Peel, including a recent homicide. In a recent report to its Police services board, Peel cops underscored how cannabis users in the region are now accessing somewhere between 100 to 150 illicit mobile pot delivery operations, some of which have been linked to gangs and criminal activity. “Mobile dispensaries are an issue,” Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich told the Star. “They’re often accompanied by violence and things that we see in any illegal drug trade.” The report described violence at a Mississauga brick-and-mortar pot shop that police closed in December following 28 calls for police, 19 of which were for reports of stabbings, a shooting and multiple possession of weapons occurrences. Milinovich said police spent thousands of dollars executing four search warrants at the dispensary. After it was shut down, it simply shifted to a mobile delivery service, police say. At their peak a few years ago, there were 19 brick-and-mortar illegal stores operating in Peel. About five are still operational, with many of the others now mobile-only operations, police say. Insp. Todd Custance said the Mississauga case involved customers who were being targeted and harassed by competing sellers. “We had a rapid rise in calls for service with the two groups sort of fighting for the illicit marijuana market in Mississauga,” he said. Late last year, Peel police concluded Project Siphon, an investigation that ended with the seizure of 34 firearms and more than 800 charges, including murder, in an operation against a street gang police said was “ inked to some of the most thoughtless violence our community has suffered for the last several years.” Police allege the New Money So Sick Gang also ran a drug business, including an illegal marijuana delivery service out of Mississauga and Brampton. Police say Aug. 3, 2020, homicide victim Abdifatah Salah, 25, was a frequent customer of a mobile cannabis operation that police allege was run by the gang. Salah was shot dead at a Mississauga townhouse complex. A man has since been charged with murder in his death. Peel police data on cannabis charges shows a drastic reduction in charges for minor possession, and a sharp increase in impaired driving charges — 82 over the last two years, up from only six in 2018. This represents a shift in police priorities, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Toronto Although legalization has done a good job of steering more people away from the illicit pot supply, thousands of people still have criminal records for minor cannabis convictions that may not have been prosecuted under the current regime, Owusu-Bempah said. About 10,000 people are eligible for a program to have their records suspended but, he said, less than 500 people have been remedied to date.