Canada marijuana sellers defiant despite police crackdown

TORONTO (Reuters) - Operators of Toronto’s unlicensed marijuana stores said on Tuesday they would defy Canada’s drug laws and continue their sales despite a police crackdown two weeks ago that targeted nearly half of the city’s roughly 100 stores.

A woman smokes a large joint before The Global Marijuana March in Toronto, in this file photo dated May 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Representatives from industry associations and at least 35 medical marijuana stores met to discuss how to keep selling as Canada moves toward legalizing the drug’s recreational use.

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada, though selling directly to the public is not. Currently, only a few federally approved producers are allowed to sell medical marijuana - and only through the mail.

Still, hundreds of shops have popped up across the country since the Liberals came to power last year on a pledge of recreational legalization.

The government said in April that it will introduce legalization laws in spring 2017.

Vancouver has also started cracking down on its marijuana stores, but those efforts were met by mostly indignant pot purveyors adamant on remaining open.

Critics say such outlets operate without oversight and quality control, and their prevalence in cities may expose minors to marijuana.

At Tuesday’s meeting, which was held at a marijuana-smoking lounge and attended by about 50 people, operators whose stores were raided told the audience what to expect. A lawyer spoke about how retailers can best deal with police.

Some unlicensed stores have been accused of selling to people without proper prescriptions. Some, such as the Cannabis Culture franchise in Toronto and Vancouver, sell openly to recreational users.

The federal government, which sets laws on both recreational and medical marijuana, has given little direction to municipalities on how to deal with either. Cities have used different regulatory and enforcement methods.

A recommendation asking police to proceed with “enforcement of all laws relating to marijuana-related retail businesses” in certain parts of the city was on the agenda at Toronto’s City Hall on Tuesday before the meeting was postponed.

Toronto’s municipal government and police could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Alan Crosby