The first raid of an unlicensed cannabis dispensary took place on Thursday evening, but there could be more on the way.
On Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) regulatory officers and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary raided Cannabis Care at 152 Water St.
Police and NLC officers uncovered a large amount of contraband, including cannabis flower, pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates such as shatter, as well as an amount of cash, laptops and other documentary evidence.
The total value of the products seized was not known by enforcement at the time of Friday’s news conference.
“We believe it’s an illegal dispensary,” said Sean Ryan, the NLC’s vice-president of regulatory services and social responsibility.
Ryan says because the dispensary was open before the legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17, the product inside must have come from illegal sources. He also said some of the product was homemade, which can be very dangerous.
“They have to be dealing with organized crime, the black market,” he said.
“There’s no legal producer that’s going to provide. A lot of these products are likely manufactured in the United States.”
Cannabis Care, as well as other unlicensed dispensaries, have operated in St. John’s for months now, some for over a year.
Ryan says prior to legalization, the NLC did not have authority to shut them down, but now it does.
“It was up until October 17 before the NLC had the legal authority to be able to act in that capacity,” he said.
It’s not known what charges could be laid as a result of the raid. The investigation is ongoing. Ryan said there are no plans to pursue any charges against former customers of the dispensary.
He says warnings were given to the unlicensed dispensaries about the incoming raids by enforcement officers with the NLC on Oct. 17.
“We said ‘today is legalization day, you’re not legal. So, do the right thing and close down or otherwise we’ll come back,’” he said.
The message was reiterated by Ryan, offering advice to anyone else operating in the province without a licence.
“If there’s more illegal dispensaries operating, you can be satisfied in knowing there will be more seizers of product,” he said.
“Those that are operating, take note. When you look at the amount of product here, the amount of money that product covers, then somebody is out a great deal of money.”
Ryan says any shops that close before a raid occurs will be able to escape criminal charges.
Supply issues continue
Meanwhile, at licensed cannabis outlets, the shortage of pot product continues.
Legal suppliers across the country are dealing with a shortage, with some local dispensaries completely devoid of cannabis product.
Ryan could not offer a definitive timeline for when the stock will be resupplied.
“I would hope this is not something we can expect going forward,” he said.
“It’s a sad and a happy statement all in one. It’s great that we have our establishments selling out of a product — that speaks to the potential for the industry.”
Ryan says he hopes the shortage last days, but could make no promises about the supply of legal cannabis in the days and weeks to come.