Targeting Unlawful Dispensary Danger

By TPSnews Staff, Toronto Police Service Published: 2:32 p.m. March 10, 2017
Updated: 4:34 p.m. March 10, 2017

One of the city’s largest storefront marijuana chains was the target of a large investigation, resulting in five arrests and the seizure of product from the illegal operations.

Hands holding a piece of paper and foil packaging with a yellow smear on it
An officer unwraps packaging containing shatter, a concentrated resin extracted from dried marijuana. The half-gram was being sold for $25

“Project Gator was designed to disrupt a large franchise operation of alleged high-level drug traffickers,” said Toronto Drug Squad Acting Inspector Steve Watts. “The public should know that this isn’t an altruistic venture, this is purely a profit-motivated venture. Anyone with a prescription for marijuana can go through Health Canada, who have an abundant supply.”

Police seized $250,000 in cash in several currencies after executing 11 search warrants at seven Cannabis Culture storefronts and residences of those involved in the operation.

Watts said that, given the amount of marijuana sold by this and other franchises, they can only be supplied by illegitimate sources often tied to organized crime.

Police seized over 65 kg of dried marijuana and 2.4 kg of shatter as well as hashish, hash oil, THC syringes, vape pens, edibles and THC-infused skin products from the stores. None of these products was regulated by Health Canada.

“Included in the sale of marijuana, was shatter, which our officers purchased. Shatter is a distilled marijuana resin that is far more potent,” Watts said. “It is also dangerous to produce, as we’ve witnessed an explosion at an Eglinton Ave. W. dispensary in August 2016. This is a very significant public safety issue.”

Windows from the Forest Hill area store were blown out and a man injured. 

Acting Inspector Steve Watts explains Project Gator

The number of reported robberies of illegal dispensaries in the city is also a community safety concern. This year alone, there have been seven reported robberies – five involving firearms.

“It’s very concerning. There were three instances where firearms were discharged and, on one occasion, two people were stabbed,” Watts said. “Having money and product in one place allows an excellent opportunity for another section of the criminal element to target you.”

He said there is a great concern not only for employees and customers of the stores but also the people who live in the area, who have complained about the quality of life deteriorating in their neighbourhoods.

Police are concerned that the products being sold are not regulated by Health Canada and present health concerns because there is no way to know how potent they are or if there are chemicals unfit for human consumption. Analysis of dispensary product by independent labs has turned up rat feces, insecticides and mould.

Paper envelopes with logos
Packaging of shatter, a potent concentrate of marijuana

“It appears benign because it looks like a regular storefront but it’s not. It’s straight-up drug trafficking and about making as much money as possible,” said Watts, noting that police receive many complaints about the dispensaries from surrounding communities.

This multi-jurisdictional project involved officers from Peterborough, Ottawa, Vancouver and RCMP E Division. Watts also noted the work of the Organized Crime Enforcement Clandestine Lab Section. 

"Their professionalism and dedication has been essential in this extensive and complicated investigation,” said Watts.

Those arrested face conspiracy to commit an indictable offence charges, something never levelled against an unlawful dispensary in the past in Toronto.

“We allege that they have quite openly identified themselves as franchisers and charge a franchise fee,” he said. “They are allegedly obtaining the proceeds of crime and laundering those proceeds.”

Search warrants were executed at Cannibis Culture locations in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver, as well as private homes.

Packaged vials in and outside a large plastic bag
Vape pens and vials containing oil derived from cannabis
Jars of skin products inside and outside a large bag
Skin products infused with THC

In addition, warrants were executed at private residences in Toronto, Stoney Creek and Vancouver. 

 Marc Emery, 59, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with: 

1) Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence 

2) three counts of Trafficking Schedule II 

3) five counts of Possession for the Purpose Schedule II 

4) five counts of Possession Proceeds of Crime 

5) Fail-to-Comply Recognizance 

Jodie Emery, 32, of Vancouver, was arrested and charged with: 

1) Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence 

2) Trafficking Schedule II 

3) Possession for the Purpose Schedule II 

4) two counts of Possession Proceeds of Crime 

Chris Goodwin, 37, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with: 

1) Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence 

2) Possession for the Purpose Schedule II 

3) Possession Proceeds of Crime 

Erin Goodwin, 31, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with: 

1) Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence 

2) Fail-to-Comply Recognizance 

Britney Guerra, 29, of Stoney Creek, was arrested and charged with: 

1) Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence 

2) three counts of Possession for the Purpose Schedule II 

3) three counts of Possession Proceeds of Crime

A large plastic bag of marijuana
Marijuana seized during Project Gator
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