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After Trudeau’s election, Toronto has become the wild west of illegal marijuana dispensaries

Marijuana canisters in Oregon
AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka
Next time you break a bone, consider this doctor’s orders.
By Jacob Templin
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Unless you are one of a few dozen medical marijuana producers with a license from the federal government, it’s illegal to sell weed for any reason in Canada.

But you wouldn’t know that walking through Toronto’s Kensington Market. The neighborhood has six of the more than 100 marijuana dispensaries in the city. Most of them sprang up in the last six months. Not coincidentally, that’s right after the election of Justin Trudeau who ran on the legalization of marijuana, among other progressive issues.

A map of every weed dispensary in Toronto as of May 13th, 2016. Compiled by the cannabis consulting agency, The Big Toke

A handful of marijuana dispensaries have existed in Toronto for years. They usually catered to a small clientele, required doctor’s prescriptions, and operated out of undisclosed locations. The new crop of dispensaries, however, are not so subtle. According to Adam Verk, a project manager at The Big Toke, which consults with and collects data on cannabis-related businesses in Toronto, almost all of the newer dispensaries have storefronts and are open to the public.

That has some veterans of the business worried. “In the past six months it’s gotten crazy, and a lot of them aren’t following protocols,”  said Amy Brown, who has been running a Toronto-based marijuana dispensary called CannDo since 2014. She’s referring to reports by local media outlets that some dispensaries are offering grace periods to provide prescriptions, while others aren’t asking for them at all.

Even though the proliferation of cannabis shops in Toronto is in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, it’s unclear whether new federal laws will legalize the dispensaries themselves. The Liberal government isn’t releasing its proposed legislation until the spring of 2017.

And it looks like the mayor of Toronto isn’t waiting to take his cues from Trudeau’s government. John Tory announced this week he is considering introducing regulations like ones being implemented in Vancouver right now that could shut down some dispensaries immediately. 

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