Ottawa police cracked down on the city’s illegal marijuana shops last week, raiding three of them.
All three establishments restocked their shelves and opened again, demonstrating how difficult it has become to control the growth of dispensaries.
There are at least 19 shops in Ottawa, more than when police began raiding them almost a year ago. The dispensaries are popping up across Canada in advance of the federal government’s pledge to legalize recreational pot by July 2018.
Some Ottawa shop employees say they don’t fear being arrested for drug trafficking.
“If more people are arrested, there will be more volunteers to take their place,” said the man working Friday at Cannabliss on Preston Street. It opened three weeks ago, and sells to anyone over 19 with ID. The shop was raided Monday and back in business by Thursday.
Joe, the budtender who was arrested during the Cannabliss raid, said he and other staffers work there for free.
“I knew it was a risk,” said Joe, who declined to give his last name. “It’s something I believe in, that I’m passionate about.” Joe, 33, said he smoked pot to get high when he was younger, but now self-medicates with various strains to control his crippling depression and ease the pain of arthritis.
Joe said he was alone in the back room, where the cannabis is stored, when a police officer in a black balaclava came through the door. “In half a second, they had me in handcuffs.”