Midtown marijuana dispensary hires security after community consultation

An illegal dispensary in Forest Hill recently reached out to local residents and businesses to hear their concerns and is now paying for private security


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Sheliza Esmail, of the Eglinton Way BIA

Following a string of armed robberies at illegal marijuana dispensaries across the city, one Forest Hill dispensary seems to be doing things differently. Canna Clinic staff, operating at 527 Eglinton Ave. W., recently met with the community to address local concerns after six suspects robbed the dispensary at gunpoint around 9 p.m. on Feb. 15.

Today, security guards can be seen pacing outside the store on Eglinton Avenue West and monitoring the parking lot nearby.

However, this was not the only incident of this nature to have occurred in the vicinity. In late 2016, an employee inside a dispensary at 353 Eglinton Ave. W., just down the street, triggered an explosion. 

As a result of these events, residents and local businesses have grown increasingly concerned over the safety of their neighbourhood. 

“A major concern following the gunpoint robbery was security,” said Lisa Parker, a parent of three who lives in the area. “But I think, leading up to that, some residents were concerned about the kind of people Canna Clinic is attracting to our neighbourhood.”

On Feb. 22, Canna Clinic staff met with neighbours, businesses and the Eglinton Way BIA.

According to Peter Accardi, owner of Ashford Cleaners, residents and nearby businesses have had issues with the clinic’s customers parking in private spots, loitering and smoking marijuana on residential streets nearby. All concerns, he said, were addressed at the meeting.

“Patients would hang around, especially in the summer, for 30 to 40 minutes. Sometimes they would have a beer, while they’re smoking, and leave their empty bottle there,” said Accardi.

Jelena Skladova, the owner of Wizard of Eyes, said she has also had to deal with some of the clinic’s clients parking on her lot and loitering in front of her store.

Sheliza Esmail, administrator for the Eglinton Way BIA, said the meeting was held at the request of the dispensary’s owners.

According to Esmail, Canna Clinic representatives offered to hire security guards to patrol the area and monitor the parking situation.

Post City visited the dispensary in late March and confirmed that security personnel were actively monitoring the premises.

A sign posted to the front door of the clinic prohibits patrons from parking in front of or behind the clinic or near Ashford Cleaners.

“Patients that refuse to comply risk having their membership revoked,” it reads.

Accardi said attendees at the meeting seemed receptive to some of the solutions the dispensary staff had proposed.

“They’re trying to be as co-operative as possible, I guess, since it’s illegal,” Accardi added.

“They’re trying to be as co-operative as possible, I guess, since it’s illegal.”

As of Feb. 23 (the day after the meeting), Canna Clinic had also changed its hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

“The reduced hours was really important to a lot of the residents,” said Esmail. “It’s a quieter community, and a lot of people don’t go out in the evening, and most of the businesses are closed by then. So this keeps them in line with the personality of the street,” she said.

Loitering was a big concern for one resident Parker said she had spoken with who lives on Warren Road.

“They often look out their living room window at clients of Canna Clinic sitting in their car smoking marijuana. They have a 12-year-old daughter who has expressed concerns about leaving their house,” she said.

According to Parker, everyone at the meeting was aware of the fact that the business is illegal. However, when it comes to preserving the character of the family-oriented neighbourhood, she said businesses’ and residents’ hands are tied.

“You’re in this tough place, where you think, we don’t want you here, but at the same time we have to try and co-operate to at least make it a better environment. That’s all we can do,” she said.

Despite all the consultation, businesses have other concerns too.

Accardi said one of his employees recently resigned because she couldn’t stand the smell emitting from next door.

“The dispensary emits quite an odour, especially during the summer. We couldn’t open our door when their door was open.… They aren’t smoking on the premises, but the odour is very pungent, and it wafts outside,” he said.

Two doors down from Ashford Cleaners, Alina Zhu, owner of Duckee Eatery, said she has had to set up a strict customers-only policy to prevent clients of the clinic from using her bathroom and leaving it a mess.

According to constable Allyson Douglas-Cook, of the Toronto Police Service (TPS), Canna Clinic would not provide TPS with information on what was taken during the robbery, and the suspects have not been identified.

Meanwhile Michael McLellan, of the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition, has been busy recommending a collaborative approach with the TPS and the City of Toronto by providing a list of recommended municipal regulations that are designed to improve community safety.

According to McLellan, some dispensaries fully frost their windows (Canna Clinic’s windows are fully frosted), which is less transparent and encourages thieves.

“We have asked for a security plan, including cameras and police background checks on owners and managers, as well as windows required to be frosted only halfway, which creates a more friendly and open atmosphere and discourages in-store crime,” he said.

Canna Clinic did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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