Article by Andrew Duffy, Growth Op
Ottawa police are warning the city’s landlords to be aware of the legal jeopardy they could face by renting to illegal pot shops.
The warning follows a recent ruling by Judge Peter Doody in which he ordered partial forfeiture of the property at 352 Preston St., a building owned by John Sanders, an Ottawa real estate agent.
The property had been rented to two illegal marijuana dispensaries — GreenTree and CannaLife — between June 2016 and September 2018. Sanders continued to rent to the dispensaries despite written warnings from police that the illegal activity could lead to civil or criminal forfeiture of the property.
Sanders has now been ordered to forfeit part of his property since only the first floor of the two-storey building was used by the illegal pot shops.
“The Ottawa Police Service believes this is an effective strategy for compliance of property owners who permit illegal marijuana dispensaries to operate on their property,” Insp. Carl Cartright of the criminal investigations directorate said in a news release Tuesday.
“We will continue to monitor this issue and will address any concerns arising from other Ottawa locations,” he said.
Reached late Tuesday, landlord John Sanders said he has to pay $70,000 to regain his Preston Street property. He said his case represented the first time that a Canadian landlord has been targeted in such a way for renting to an illegal pot shop.
He refused further comment until he gets his building back. “I am scared to say anything as I feel threatened by the very people who are here to protect us,” he said.
In November 2016, Sanders told this newspaper he was outraged by a police raid on the GreenTree dispensary, which then occupied the ground floor of his building, near George Street. He said guns formed the real threat to the city, not pot shops: “The real issue is people running around with guns, going into dispensaries, going into banks and robbing places — not dispensaries that are helping people with medical issues.”
Dispensaries, he said, helped to reduce crime by allowing people to shop in stores rather than buying from street dealers.