Toronto police are asking illegal marijuana dispensaries to report robberies committed in their shops, but lawyers say the fear of criminal charges makes cooperating with police a difficult prospect for pot sellers.
At a news conference Monday morning, police Supt. Bryce Evans said he found it “disturbing” that dispensaries refuse to cooperate with, or turn over evidence to, police robberies.
“They increase the victimizations because they want the almighty dollar and the profit from the sale of illegal marijuana,” he said of dispensary owners.
There have been four dispensaries robbed this month alone, Evans told reporters, and a total of 13 robberies since June 2016.
On two of those occasions, police charged the dispensary owners with possession for the purpose of trafficking, after being called in to investigate the robberies.
Storefront pot dispensaries are illegal under current Canadian law. Though many Toronto dispensaries claim to offer medicinal marijuana, only 38 providers are licensed by Health Canada.
“I realize that there is no legal obligation to report a crime, but where is your moral sense of an obligation?” Evans asked. “When will you step up to the plate for your employees (and) customers?”
Alan Young, professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said police are “setting a standard few can live up to” by calling on dispensary owners to report a crime despite the risk of charges.
“When you operate in a grey or black market, you don’t have the same sense of security that other people have, feeling you can call the police to protect you, because you are always worried about repercussions,” Young said.
“Right now, knowing the police have very zealously been targeting dispensaries, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to call if they were concerned about facing charges.”
Whether or not dispensary owners are charged is determined on a