Despite warnings from Toronto Police and city officials that more charges could follow this week's massive pot-dispensary crackdown, some in the marijuana movement vowed that many busted storefronts would simply reopen – and be joined by new ones.
Chris Cardozo, whose dispensary in Kensington Market, Toronto Holistic Cannabinoids, was among the 43 raided on Thursday across the city, said he would keep selling his products as long as he could.
"I am seeing patients, I am hoping patients will come down or activists or anyone who is willing to help out with the cause," he said. "I am fighting this. I am fighting this every which way I can."
Other pot-dispensary owners caught in the crosshairs and facing criminal charges were more cautious in speaking to reporters about their plans. The previously vocal owners of the Queens of Cannabis on Bloor Street West declined to comment until they had met with their lawyer.
As a protest outside police headquarters swelled to about 150 people, many smoking marijuana, well-known British Columbia-based pot advocate Marc Emery pledged to hold a party Friday night to mark the opening of his Queen Street West pot dispensary.
His wife, Jodie, was among a group of pot advocates who berated Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders at Friday's press conference trumpeting the busts, where police put dozens of bags of seized marijuana-laced "edibles" on display, including chocolate bars, lollipops, gummy candies and even pizza. One protester was escorted out at the chief's request.
Mr. Emery claimed the city, which now has an estimated 83 storefront dispensaries, actually has enough demand to support a thousand. And he accused the large, corporate, licensed producers under the federal government's medical marijuana program of trying to wipe out smaller dispensary owners now facing police action.
He also compared the Toronto Police crackdown to the 1938 Nazi anti-Jewish rampage known as Kristallnacht: "We are being rounded up like we are in Central Europe in the 1930s."
While the police called their raids a "measured response" as they did not involve the immediate jailing of those facing drug charges, pot advocates called the busts heavy handed, because the federal Liberal government has promised to legalize marijuana.
At the tense press conference on Friday, Chief Saunders said the raids were prompted by public complaints and a concern for safety.
"There's no regulatory process behind this. You don't know if you go to one store and you purchase one brownie, or one muffin or cupcake, and you go to the next store. How much THC is in this one versus the other? You don't know. And where does it come from, and where was it manufactured," Chief Saunders said.
Katey Asaph, a project manager with the Eden Medicinal Society on Queen Street West, said she and several other employees were handcuffed for four hours as a half-dozen police searched the dispensary, made jokes about having the munchies and seized marijuana. Ms. Asaph said she was not even allowed out of her cuffs to go the bathroom, which meant needing a female officer to undo her pants for her.
She said Eden has not decided whether it would reopen in the wake of the crackdown. But she said she has a lawyer, prominent marijuana-law challenger Kirk Tousaw, and plans to fight the trafficking and proceeds of crime charges she faces.
"It's heartbreaking to see so many of our regular clients who rely on cannabis for medicine knocking on our door only to be disappointed," Ms. Asaph said. "… I am going to fight for my rights and I am going to fight for our patients."
Many of the 90 people facing criminal charges were employees in the stores, some making $15 an hour, according to Adolfo Gonzales, who says he works as a consultant for pot dispensaries, including Eden.
Criminal lawyer Leora Shemesh says she is acting for a handful of dispensary owners and employees caught up in Thursday's crackdown. She said constitutional challenges will be launched in many of the cases, since previous court rulings have created a legal vacuum around marijuana. She said one client told her that police entered the pot dispensary with guns drawn.
"This isn't people handing out drugs, you know, at a school parking lot," Ms. Shemesh said. "Many of these people are operating, I say, legitimate businesses for people who really need medical marijuana."