Several sources described to CBC how organized crime groups have obtained personal grow licences and are using them to try to hamper police attempts to shut down their operations.
CBC is not naming the sources, who fear reprisal from criminal groups or worry about interfering in criminal investigations.
“We often don’t have the the resources to chase down the true identities behind the licences,” said one source.
He added there’s mounting concern that some organized crime groups have been using the licences to produce a large supply of medical marijuana for some of the illicit dispensaries popping up in cities across Canada.
Health Canada forbids anyone issued personal grow licences from selling their product to others.
Police concern began in 2013
An RCMP report obtained by CBC-Radio Canada through Access to Information suggests alarm bells began ringing about organized crime participation in the medical marijuana market back in 2013, as Health Canada started taking applications for licences to produce and sell medical marijuana to authorized patients.
“The RCMP’s initial background checks of applicant ventures have turned up significant hits and raised significant alarm bells inside the Federal Policing program,” states the document, which is a report to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
“There is no shortage of organized criminal groups who have applied to produce Medical Marihuana (MM) under Health Canada’s new MMPR, including self-proclaimed Hells Angels and associates of transnational organized crime (TOC).”
The MMPR, or Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, came into effect in 2014 and was supposed to transform the industry, replacing more than 30,000 individuals who were allowed to grow their own product.
However, a Federal Court ruling found the system unconstitutional, and Health Canada has allowed individuals to continue to produce their own stock.
The RCMP document emphasized that “… the Security and Intelligence community should be aware that this is a going concern for our organization, not just the domestic vulnerabilities these new regulations have created, but the international ones as well.”
There is no evidence the criminal organizations described in the report actually managed to obtain one of the new production licences, which allow a few dozen producers to sell directly to patients through the mail.
But sources suggest crime groups have been using individual personal grow licences to evade police scrutiny while supplying illicit dispensaries.
Raf Souccar, a retired deputy commissioner of the RCMP and a member of the Trudeau government’s cannabis task force, said he’s not surprised to hear that organized crime is involved in the illicit dispensary market.
“Because if you’re able to supply that quantity of marijuana, you can’t do it growing it in your basement,” he said.
“Organized crime is behind most of these marijuana dispensaries,” Souccar added. “After all, it’s a $7-billion industry.”
Souccar said he’s only heard anecdotal evidence that crime organizations were somehow obtaining legal personal grow licences.
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