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Pot Activists Are Not Happy That Toronto Cracked Down On Dispensaries

"Where's the harm? Where's the victim?"

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A Toronto Police press conference went off the rails today when pot activists showed up to confront Police Chief Mark Saunders about raids on dispensaries.

Toronto Police Service // BuzzFeed Canada

Police raided dozens of dispensaries around Toronto this week as part of an operation they named Project Claudia. They said they seized 269 kilograms of bud, as well as a bunch more resin, hash, and "a massive amount of edibles."

Cole Burston / THE CANADIAN PRESS

In total, police arrested 90 people at 43 different dispensaries, and laid 186 charges. They also seized more than $160,000 in cash from the shops.

Police said there were a "significant" number of community complaints about the pot shops and that "health concerns" were the driving reason behind the raids. But pot activists who attended the press conference repeatedly questioned Saunders' justification.

Protesters question Chief on the raids of Toronto dispensaries.

“Where’s the harm? Where’s the victim?” one man shouted before being ejected from the press conference.

Pot activist Jodie Emery, who led a rally against the raids outside police headquarters, was one of the people who challenged Saunders.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS

“They kept saying there was a threat to public safety," she told BuzzFeed Canada. “The police enforcement itself harms the taxpayers, harms the people being arrested, and it harms the patients who depend on these businesses.”

Emery, who lives in Vancouver, said she happened to be in Toronto for a conference when the raids went down. She said the police response was too heavy-handed.

"We had doors smashed in, glass shattered on streets in some cases," she said. "There’s no reason for them to go in and handcuff these employees. They’re not hurting anybody.”

One woman who was swept up in the city-wide raids compared the police tactics to "raiding a dangerous location like a 1990s crack-house." Maggie Krawczyk owns The Handwork Department vintage shop next-door to a dispensary that was raided.

She said that as she pulled into her parking space, a police officer dressed as a construction worker started yelling at her while holding a gun, apparently concerned that she was going to make off with the dispensary's merchandise.

"He wouldn't listen and talked over me, telling me that all my property will be searched, and I started to imagine cops crawling around my shop damaging product looking for drugs," she told BuzzFeed Canada.

She placed part of the blame on the federal government of Justin Trudeau, which promised to legalize marijuana "without having any real plan to put those words in to action."

Emery also blamed Trudeau and the federal government for creating confusion. “Canadians expect marijuana to be legal. What kind of legalization is this? And that’s why I’m saying Justin Trudeau has lied to us.”

"We are not supposed to be punished when marijuana is supposed to be legal": Jodie Emery.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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