@TorontoPolice News Conference Re: Project Claudia | Chief Mark SaundersRobin Kshlerin October 19, 2019 82 Comments
Constable Caroline De Kloet: Good morning
and thank you for attending police headquarters. My name is Constable Caroline De Kloet and
I’m here today to introduce three speakers who will be providing an update on project
Claudia. Our first speaker is Mr. Mark Shregger director of investigative services municipal
licensing and standards of the City of Toronto. Followed by our Chief of Police Mark Saunders,
followed by acting inspector Steven Watts from the drug squad.
Mr.Shreggar: Thank you, and good morning as a result the significant number of so called
medical marijuana dispensaries that have opened up throughout the city in the recent months.
The city in partnership with Toronto Police Services has undertaken investigations of
these premises. These investigations included municipal standards officers attending and
inspecting 78 locations throughout the city for determining if there were any municipal
by laws violations. Where violations of the cities by-law were identified letters were
sent all the business and property property owners informing them of these violations
and advising them that they face possible legal actions if they allowed the violations
to continue. Yesterday in conjunction with the actions taken by the Toronto Police services
that 43 of these locations municipal standard officers also attended and laid charges against
the business owners or operators. The charges included violations of the cities zoning by-law
and some instances additional charges were laid were violations of the seized licencing
by-law at those locations were identified for the selling of foods. A total of 79 charges
were laid yesterday by municipal licensing and standards officers yesterday, 48 charges
for violations of the cities zoning by-law for using a property for none prohibited use.
31 charges for violations of the cities licensing by-law for carrying on business without where
foods stuff intended for human consumption were offered for sale without valid business
licenses. Both the zoning and licensing by-law charges have a maximum fine of $25,000 for
an individual and $50,000 for a corporation. The first appearance dates for these matters
is scheduled for 9AM on June 19 at Old City Hall in court room N. The city will also be
proceeding with charges against property owners where the zoning change violations have been
allowed to continue on despite being provided with written warning and notifications. The
municipal licensing standards division will continue with our enforcement actions utilizing
all tools available to us to gain compliance with the municipal by-laws at these locations
that continue to operate on a forward going basis. Thank you.
Chief Mark Saunders: Thank you Mark. Yesterday, at 12 p.m., members of the Toronto Police
Service, in partnership with officers from the City of Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards,
executed 43 search warrants at various locations across the city, known to be unlawful storefront
selling marijuana. As a result, approximately 90 people were
arrested, and 186 charges were laid I’ll have acting inspector Steve Watts give a more stronger
accounts as to the numbers and the charges. This Project has been ongoing for a number
of weeks in response to significant community complaints and public safety issues regarding
the drastic increase of these storefronts. Since March, the number of storefronts have
more than doubled, and Officers from our Drug Squad have worked jointly with Municipal Licensing
and Standards as well as with Public Prosecution Service Canada.
As you may know, on May 18, Toronto Police Service issued Civil Remedies for Illicit
Activity letters to 44 locations. And in the letter it clearly stated: clearly stated that
these locations were engaged in unlawful activities and if they didn’t seize that actions would
be taken in accordance to the criminal code of Canada. Since that letter was distributed
only one location shut down. I want to be very clear about our intentions project Claudia
is not an attack on lawful production distribution or purchasing of marijuana for medical purposes.
Health Canada has published clear guidelines if you look right there you will see what
the guidelines are when it comes to the illegalities of distribution of marijuana. And I also want to be clear that these locations
have a broader impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods. There is no quality control whatsoever on
these products and many, as you can see they are marketed in a way that disguises the unknown
and unregulated amount of THC in the products. And almost half of all locations to date,
are within 300 metres of schools. The Toronto Police Service has always and
will continue to keep neighbourhoods as safe as we possibly can. If I could just have acting
inspector Steve Watts just go through the activities of yesterday: That be great!
Steve Watts: Thank you Chief. I’ll just speak to what the Chief was mentioning earlier there
is significant community complaints that generated this project. And as he stated it was done
in conjunction with municipal licensing and the city with the full approval and guidance
of the PPSC. These complaints were substantial in nature petitions and access of 50 60 70
people just to give you an idea of the kind of complaints that were coming forward in
relation to these unlawful store front dispensaries. Also I’ll go through the charges, to the numbers
for you and there is 90 people arrested 186 charges laid, sorry 186 controlled drugs and
substance act charges which would have been in possession of purpose of trafficking p
for p charges. 71 criminal charges which would have been proceeds charges related to cash
in terms of seizures in excess of 269 kilos of dried cannabis so dry bud weed in excess
of 30 kilos of cannabis resin, excess of 24 kilos of cannabis hash, there was also in
excess of 27 kilos of marijuana and THC pills that is oil and capsule form. And then we
get to the what we refer to as the substance edibles which are laid out in front of you
here. This amount that’s displayed is literally only from a minimal amount of search warrants
I’ll say its less than less than 5 of the search warrants so there was a massive amount
of edibles that were taken from these unlawful locations. So were talking about 72 kilos
of chocolate 142 kilos of cookies 129 kilos of candies that includes nutela with every
flavor you like. Soda’s and liquids 64 kilos of that and just other oils and spreads 126
kilos of that just under $160, 000 dollars in cash seized which would account for the
proceed referred to earlier. And 23 grams of powdered cocaine seized at one of the locations.
And I would also just like to speak to the methodology and the search warrants how they
were executed. This was a well thought out well planned approach in terms of this this
was not this was not the normal I’m speaking from an enforcement perspective here. This
was not the normal protocol for search warrants that are executed where people are show caused
in terms of a show cause situation this was a situation where the agreement was made it
was with command and PPSE approval that these individuals be form 10 or 11.1 from the scene.
They would be officer in charge would attend and facilitate the release just we are cognisant
of the nature of the legislation in this matter. And were cognisant and that’s why we took
that measured approach we took a measured approach and we took a joint approach with
the city and with the PPSE in addressing these unlawful dispensaries. And I’ll just peak
to just to echo the chiefs sediment one of these issues here is the quality control what
I refer to is the proper term quantitative amounts of THC that are in these products
there is no there is no uhm proper measuring there’s no proper quantitative analysis there
all deferring according to store to store so that’s when we run into the health and
safety implications for the people that are utilizing these products there’s no standardization
amongst these products that are being either consumed by adults and/or children. Thank
you. Chief Mark Saunders: Thank you Inspector,
I’m sure there are questions: Reporter: Chief, Are you surprised by this
large amount of all of this stuff seized yesterday? Chief: No, I wasn’t surprised at the large
amount and I want to be very cautious in why this is important. And its the health concern
it is a genuine health concern and because there is no regulatory process behind this
and so you don’t know going to one store where you purchase one brownie or one muffin or
cupcake and you go into the next store how much THC is in this store vs. that one? you
don’t know and where did it come from? how is it manufactured? and what’s the quality
control of the premise that it actually made at? So its a health concern it is a genuine
health concern. Reporter #2: Is that a assumption or do you
actually have documentation from hospitals and dr prove that these are health concerns?
because these concerns have literally been around for 20 years and literally the medical
marijuana has been around for 100 of years and it has literally never killed anybody
so how can you justify that there is a health concern? When really it its the most benign
substance that you can ingest? Chief: So lets have a quick chat here, the
reason why Reporters: you get 54 or 55 complaints what
about the thousands of people that these clubs are helping where do you suggest these people
go? back in the black market? back in the alley ways? That’s not a health risk?
Chief: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk.
Reporters (inaudible) Chief: We have the bottom line is under the
act right now it is standardized which means you have an understanding of exactly how much
THC is in the product also you also have an understanding of what your getting you don’t
know what your getting when you make the purchases off the streets and if I ask you where are
the sources of all these products you don’t have the answers if I’d ask you if I were
to ask how much THC was in each product if I were to ask how much THC in each product
no one here would be able to define that? Reporters: Talking over one another (inaudible)
Reporter: Did you know the license are lying about the health Canada producers do have
THC numbers listed but when independently tested those numbers are not accurate, what
do you say about that? Chief: What I say is that when you look at
health Canada number 2 tells you point blank that there’s no such thing as a dispensary
the only way you can have a license is if health Canada issues that license. And if
you process that and if you go through that process
Reporters: health Canada has yet to do the courts have allowed these dispensaries to
exist for medical marijuana the licensed producers only exist because a court decisions ordering
the Harper government to provide access to marijuana the NPR program is a Harper program
designed to restrict access to marijuana the license producers are supporting the program
that restricts access and they benefit from the court cases and the arrests and peaceful
Canadians being charged and arrested and handcuffed and criminalized and those Canadians went
to court they won in court and the courts said medical marijuana must be made available
that is why there are licensed producers they benefit from the dispensaries laying the ground
work and no harm is being done when you send children to buy candy where cigarettes are
sold at corner shops. How do you justify that? Chief: Anyone
Reporters: (inaudible) Where are the victims? show us the victims? 54 complaints yet you
have 10s and thousands of people feeling better. Where’s the victims?
Chief: As I stated in my earlier comments anyone that has a medical prescription for
marijuana still has access to we have not in anyway shape or form hindered or slowed
down the access of getting medical marijuana. Reporters: (many talking) practically speaking
there’s obviously you guys have shut down number of stores and there’s obviously and
those places have a lot of patients where do you expect or think that those people are
now going to get their marijuana? Chief: If they have a medical prescription
for it first and foremost you have to get your prescription once you get your prescription
it opens up the avenues for where you can legally obtain it and it is it is accessible.
Reporters: (many talking at the same time) Reporters: Why did you move in now? There’s
been a long lapse between these dispensaries say in November started coming up and maybe
a dozen or even a 100 who knows exactly how many, why did you move in now when really
nothing has been done up until now? not to long ago you applied it would be a waste of
tax payers money because everything is in such legal limbo?
Chief: That’s a fair question. And what I said was I’m working in partnership with the
public prosecutors as well as the city to see what the best direction we should go in.
And so once the once we had the discussion then the public prosecutors are very supportive
of what is taking place as a criminal act unless you have a license to sell marijuana.
We did not do anyone with possession but once I got the acknowledgement from the PPSE and
had full understanding of what the health concerns were that was when I decided to take
the action. Reporters: (many speaking)
Reporters: were you pressured politically at all to do this?
Chief: No I was not pressured politically to make any decisions and I knew it was going
to be a hard decision lets not make any mistake about this I really do not want to impede
on anyone that wants medical marijuana but there’s a avenue in which we have to go in
order to get that and when you look at look at what health Canada says you need to do
in order to obtain medical marijuana you see that the availability is there for people
that are in need of it. Reporters: Chief much of the criticism yesterday
said that with changes on the way to the laws much of this stuff wont stick in court how
would you respond to that? Chief: Well I’ve been in that was a decision
that I had to make and I rest assured I feel very strongly that the charges will stick
and so its based on the conversations I have had I believe the charges will stick and this
is not about the charges this is about the public safety that is the concern. its the
classic .. Reporters: (many talking)
Chief: If we could have those 2 gone please so that I can have a legitimate press release.
Reporters: (many talking) Chief: I’m trying to answer the questions,
I’m trying to answer the questions and just and when it comes to the..
Reporters:(many speaking) Reporters: I’m getting kicked out for asking
where’s the victims? Chief: no, your not the problem is your not
giving an opportunity for anyone to answer questions.
Reporters: All I’m asked was where are the victims that’s all I ask? Sir will you answer
that question, where’ s the harm if any? Reporters: (many speaking)
Reporters: What about the 10s and thousands of medical patients who are sick
Reporters: (Many speaking) Chief: So anyways the ones that are that are
still active we hadn’t received complaints from those but the investigation Is still
on going if a dispensary is up and running its unlawful unless they have a license from
health Canada and if they are distributing marijuana then they will be charged as well.
Reporters: (many speaking inaudible) Chief: the vast majority that is correct
Reporters: Well will all of them be shut down then?
Chief: Were going to continue our investigation and see where it takes us but the the message
I do want to get out that’s very loud and clear that if you don’t’ have a license from
health Canada and your distributing marijuana its unlawful.
Reporter: Have you had any children (inaudible) marijuana candies lollipops?
Chief: No you know what I don’t have any evidence of that and I’m going to tell you I don’t
want any evidence of children mistakenly having jujubes or brownies or muffins or any of those
things so the edibles are a huge concern for the public safety factor which is the primary
reason we are here today. Reporter: Chief its actually quite valid question
what are the health concerns ? Chief: Well that the problem is you don’t’
know what the qualitative analysis is in one product vs. the other and its
Reporter: Why is that important? Chief: Why is that important?
Reporter: Why is it so important where is the danger not knowing how much THC is in
the product? Chief: There is a danger if you don’t’ know
where the source is coming from sir, number 1 and then there’s’ also the danger you don’t’
even know you know I’d like to answer your questions if you stop talking.
Reporter: well what’s the answer? Chief: Now can I thank you, so here we have
the danger when comes to the regulatory process like I said these locations can not tell you
where its coming from nor what the actual contents is unless their guessing I have a
concern with that and number 2 you don’t even know who your purchasing off out of the arrest
that we made 2 people were wanted one person has a bench warrant for and we found cocaine
in another location so that’s part of the issue when it comes to the regulatory process
we have to have environments where it is regulated properly by the government so that there is
a standard not just ad hop I’ll just open a shop and go by my own rules you can’t do
that. Reporters: Are there any evidence that organized
crime is behind any of these dispensaries? Chief: its to early to say right now were
looking into the investigation to see where it takes us this is just the starting point
right now so it doesn’t. absolutely where is the money going? these locations are open
for profit for monetary gains and so (inaudible)and more importantly where’s the source of these
products where’s the source of the cannabis is coming from we don’t’ know and that’s still
lies the problem. Reporter (talking in between)
Reporters: so did you receive any records to clients or customers records in the shops?
Chief: repeating reporter Shregger: Every location was distinct so I
can not comment on what was seized in terms of that. Sorry.
Reporter: If you find those records will those people be at risk of being charged?
Shregger: So your talking about people that were possessing?
Reporter: Like clients like if some of these patients if some of these places have databases
or lists of patients and clients are those people at risk of being charged?
Shregger: No, they are not its not about the consumer per say this is about trafficking
from the dispensaries. Reporter: But if the consumers are not being
harmed whose being harmed? Reporter: I want to ask you about your measured
approach can you explain what you mean by that?
Chief: Yes the measured approach first started with the letter advising the owners that there
is unlawful activity going on seize and desist or else we will come in and we will enforce
under the criminal code and we then we waited for a period of time to give people the opportunity
to make the decision of stopping the distribution. Those that didn’t were charged now when it
comes to trafficking normally its a show cause which means you get apprehended you get brought
before the courts immediately and show cause to why you should be released. We did not
do that we got the consent from the public prosecutor that we could do it just on releasing
by giving a piece of paper form 10 then 11 one basically stating you know what come back
in a week for finger prints and 2 weeks to set a date for court. So these were some of
the things that we tried to do as low key as possible in order to you know not make
it you know kick the door in and do it traditionally do it for a drug search warrant.
Reporter: You did kick in the doors though sir and also did you find anybody actually
violent or resisting or using any force against you because when you say you want to protect
the public from harm its seems to me that the harm comes from the 90 peaceful citizens
receiving criminal records which will prohibit them from getting work ban them from being
able to travel maybe even possibly take their kids away their right to get a scholarship,
these are part of the communities peaceful people.
Chief: That is why I said before that there was an opportunity to stop in distributing
the product which is on May 18 we gave that notice to everybody so there was no surprise
that we were coming in people had ample opportunity to make their informed decision whether or
not they wanted to continue to break the law because we said what your dong is unlawful
or to continue to break the law and those that made that decision to continue to break
the law unfortunately they are charged right now as it speaks.
Reporter: (many speaking) (inaudible) Chief: Well that would be that would be released
when it comes court date there were active investigations at each location that we had
executed the search warrant. Reporter: The thousands of sick and dying
patients who you are now sending to the black market preventing them to getting their medicine,
their Dr’s wont sign (many speaking) Chief: I will say that look anybody that needs
marijuana for medicinal purposes if you obtain that prescription we have not closed any we
have no Reporter: Speaking in the back
Chief: Sir, you know I’ve got to hand it to you you keep asking questions but you really
don’t want answers you just want to make statements, I’m trying to answer but every time I open
my mouth you continue to talk so anyway the questions that this just gentleman asked was
what do I do to the patients that require marijuana and I’ve said very clearly first
and foremost we did not disrupt any of the legal processes in obtaining marijuana so
anyone has the medical marijuana prescription you still have full access of getting that
medical marijuana and so in no way or shape or form did we look at or consider arresting
people for possession this is strictly for those people that are trafficking it the narcotics
and the edibles are a huge concern for us. Reporter: there were doors bashed in and people
in handcuffs are those true? Chief: Yes, and when we execute search warrants
when you have 5 officers going into a place and there are 17 people one of the things
we have to do is ensure safety and security first and foremost before anything else is
done. so people were hand cuffed and then once we figure out exactly who the person
is that is in possession of distributing those are the people that were charged everyone
else was released. Reporter’s: (inaudible)
Chief: With the door that was breached it was because it was locked.
Reporter: Sir can you talk to the board here sir,
Reporter: (inaudible) Chief: No there are 2 people out of the 90
arrests 2 are in custody but one had an outstanding warrant and the other had a firearm charges
in another province. Reporter: how much did this investigation
cost can you comment on the amount of police resources that was spent on this?
Chief: no Reporter: is there a concern by doing this
you drive people back to the underground sources. Chief: No the for the medical marijuana no,
I don’t believe that. Reporter: The board here you have a list of
names some of them are in green can you explain what’s going on there?
Chief: I’m not sure what’s in green. Sorry, and I’ll get an answer for you later.
Reporter: Chief how come any of these dispensaries it seems that some are truly trying to only
service people that genuinely are not well but others looks like its the LCBO you hear
lots of people legitimately, did you get an distinction some are following the rules even
though I know are illegal but are some following the rules with genuine prescriptions than
others or are are others just sourcing each other?
Chief: Well the problem is every dispensary has its own set of regulations in what they
are doing and how they are doing it their intensions may be well served and I understand
that but at the end of the day knowingly selling and not having a license which is issued by
health Canada its unlawful you can’t be doing it.
reporter: but did you find some that were flaunting by getting the prescription (inaudible)
Chief: no I don’t’ I can’t really comment on that.
Reporter: Chief, were you working in conjunction with health Canada did you partner up with
health Canada with this consult with them? Chief: We spoke with the public prosecutor
because they are the ones that are officers of the court that would determine whether
or not this would go through the court proceedings to the end with a successful conclusion as
well as the city and that was a deciding factor had there been resistant from any entity then
I would have a concern but there was not in fact all entities were in total agreement
with exactly what the best action was from a safety prospective.
Reporter: So this is legalization (many speaking) Reporter: Chief, why don’t you do traditional
buy bust where you sent in a officer undercover to buy without a prescription or with a forged
prescription? Why was a traditional buy bust not done?
Chief: Because we wanted to give an opportunity for the dispensaries to make their own informed
decision to shut them down rather than us to have come in and shut it down and so that
was the primary reason. Reporter: Why didn’t you go to buy bust traditional
scenario Chief: After the 43 after the letters were
given and we did take it down and we did charge the people appropriately with possession charges
and the raids were done very low key they were not done high key at all they were very
low energy by enlarge. Reporter: Can you let us know nationally do
you have any comment on the number of dispensaries and the action we do take nationally?
Chief: The legal distribution centers there are I believe 18 or 20 and there are 29 in
Canada so we have the vast majority of them. Reporter: But there not outlets there by mail
only sir, and many people need to be able to see their medicine in person these dispensaries
obviously their patients come for them for a reason because they can’t get access to
the license producers the license producers are only so few and they feel that they don’t
even have enough supply for the patients so when were talking about liberty and health
and freedom why can’t they have freedom in person?
Chief: From my understanding that there is ample supply so I disagree with that.
Reporter: many speaking Reporter: how many do you have any idea how
many dispensaries there are now in Toronto you had said that they had doubled since March
so I wanted to just looking for a number. Chief: I’m not oh, you mean these dispensaries?
I think that there are 90 if not more. Reporter: Where did the project name come
from? Project Claudia what is that about? Chief: I’m not oh yah you know what its because
these dispensaries were rapidly climbing and climbing and started to get out of control.
Reporter: so this situation will continue for a while well until for the government
to clarify the laws and set the laws for everyone in place?
Chief: well the laws when it comes to trafficking are very clear and if you look behind you
and I hope to take away is you leave with the health Canada points there because they
speak very loud and clear as to what is lawful and what is not lawful for anybody in the
public that is standing in front of a dispensary wondering whether or not it is legal to purchase
or not its not its not. Thank you.