Landlords of abandoned CAFE pot stores are moving to get charges brought

They are the illegal cannabis shops that just will not stop. And now the city of Toronto’s latest tactics in the fight against the CAFE chain may have been doomed, as a businessman complains that it has become a mess and he is caught in the crossfire.

Since the first branch of CAFE – an acronym for Cannabis and Fine Edibles – opened in downtown in 2016, police and city officials have been trying to close the business, which does not have a provincial dispensary license or comply with federal law.

Raids the apostate weed businessare now four places seizing their supplies of buds, replacement of lockswelding the doors and finally, piles of large concrete slabs in front of the entrances to bar access – none of it has the work. Each time, the same stores are reopened.

In its recent attempts to force closed the sleek coffee bars that act as illegal pot pots, the city is resorting to the courts, where it is suing the landlords who own the buildings where CAFE operates. The Provincial Cannabis Control Act makes it illegal for a landlord to “knowingly allow a local” to be used to sell illegal weeds.

“We have reached a point where we have to rely on the court process to handle this,” said Carleton Grant, executive director of the city’s licensing and standards department. told CBC Toronto last month.

For individual landlords, the charges result in a potential maximum penalty of a fine of $ 250,000 and two years in prison for a first conviction and then $ 100,000 a day in fines plus two years in prison for subsequent convictions.

But the provincial cannabis law also provides a defense to any landlord who takes “reasonable measures to prevent the activity,” and one of CAFE’s landlords, who faces seven charges, told the CBC this week that he has tried everything, what he can to get rid of his mockery. tenants, and the city refuses to help.

“It’s basically the city trying to make their problem my problem,” Mohsen Ghelichkhani said. “This is such a cluster – k.”

‘No one returns to us except to give us more tickets’

Ghelichkhani owns the premises of CAFE’s flagship store at 66 Fort York Blvd., an apartment complex in CityPlace. He claims he tried to evict his tenants through Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board, but LTB refused when it saw the dispute was about a commercial operation.

Then he tried to hire a bailiff to force CAFE out, he maintains, but the bailiff would not take up the matter because the lease they signed five years ago is a residence and housing disputes must go to LTB.

“Then I go back to the city and I think, ‘Well, what am I going to do now?’ … I said bluntly, ‘Tell me what to do? And I want to do it. It’s as simple as that.’ And you know, no one returns to us except to give us more tickets, “Ghelichkhani said.

City workers placed huge slabs of concrete in front of CAFE’s CityPlace sale in July 2019, part of a cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and the chain of pot cafes. (CBC)

“They have come up with zero solutions. I mean, they have also tried themselves. They have put concrete blocks, security guards, police officers, raids, changed locks, changed the door. And now they open their hands. In the air and then just go ‘OK “Well, we want to put pressure on you.”

He said his understanding is that while he still owns the property, due to a closure order imposed by law enforcement when they raided the CAFE back in 2018, “the city has owned the property. So they are really giving themselves tickets.”

“It plays a big role in any alleged passivity of landlords,” Ghelichkhani’s lawyer Noel Gerry told CBC News.

Gerry noted the allegations alleging that his client allowed the property to be used as a rebellious weed store originating from after the city, and police technically took control of it.

“It’s actually a misdemeanor [for landlords] to enter the premises. They are excluded from access. “

Landlords cite the Charter of Rights

And if it is not enough of a hill for prosecutors to climb, Gerry said in court this week that Ghelichkhani and another CAFE landlord he represents, Ali Gillani, will seek to have their cases rejected on the basis of the Charter of Rights. , because it is taken. so long to get to the trial.

Proceedings before the provincial court are presumed to be concluded within 18 months after the charges have been brought, otherwise the delay is considered unreasonable.

Of Ghelichkhani’s seven Cannabis Control Act charges, three go back to 2018 and three to 2019. Gillani, landlord at CAFE’s 104 Harbord St. location near the University of Toronto, faces five cases, two of which go back to 2018, while two are from 2019 and one is from January 2020.

The CAFE place at 104 Harbord St. was also cordoned off with concrete slabs, but someone removed them in the middle of the night with a crane, and the store reopened. (Chris Glover / CBC)

The COVID-19 pandemic complicates the math somewhat because CAFE landlords had scheduled lawsuits for last year, which had to be canceled when the courts closed.

Gillani, through Gerry, denied a request to comment on his charges. He has had a years-long association with one of the main characters behind CAFE, Wesley Weber, and was COO, CFO and director of a now defunct cryptocurrency company, which Weber co-founded as Incryptex. Prior to starting the business, Weber had a comprehensive criminal record, including convictions for forgery, fraud, counterfeiting and marijuana cultivation.

Wesley Weber, whose criminal history includes convictions for fraud and forgery, has been one of the main players behind CAFE. (CBC)

In addition to Gillani and Ghelichkhani, there are also four cases pending against 2694605 Ontario Inc., which owns the premises CAFE operates from at 1321 St Clair Ave. W., and four additional cases against 10956392 Canada Inc., landlord for the CAFE store at 932 Bloor St. W.

The charge against the former company is set for a court hearing next week. A lawyer for the latter firm did not respond to an email asking if he would try to have his client’s charges dismissed on the basis of charter.

For business owners, the maximum penalty is $ 1 million for a first offense and $ 500,000 a day for a subsequent one.

The municipality will not comment on cases

The city of Toronto would not comment specifically on the CAFE allegations due to the ongoing lawsuits, but said in a general statement that it “continues to take enforcement action against illegal cannabis storefronts” in the city.

“This includes conducting investigations, issuing closure orders, blocking access to premises, conducting seizures and search warrants and prosecutions.”

As the lawsuits drag on, CAFE continues to operate. At its highest, the city has estimated, it brought in $ 50,000 a day per capita. location.


If you have a tip about this or any other story, send an email to zach.dubinsky@cbc.ca or call 416-205-7553

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