Want to shut down an illegal pot shop? Here’s one who tried

When a shop openly selling marijuana opened a couple blocks from her home, Angie Todesco was astounded.

A year later, she shuffles through a file folder of official responses from authorities she figured might have some power to shut down a store illegally selling drugs. She’s written, emailed or called everyone from the prime minister to the Manor Park Community Association. “It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” she says.

It’s not easy to get rid of a pot shop.

“Basically, everyone is just standing still and letting it happen,” is Todesco’s conclusion. “Nobody is responsible.”

The federal government has pledged to legalize recreational pot by July 2018. In the meantime, illegal shops proliferate, their numbers barely dented by sporadic police raids. There are about 18 marijuana dispensaries in Ottawa.

Todesco, 71, says she’s no “crazy lady” on a crusade. She’s a baby boomer who went to the University of Toronto back when parts of campus were “drug central” and she’s tried marijuana.

But it offends her sense of justice that drug laws are being broken with impunity, and pot shops tend to set up in “already impoverished and hard-done-by areas.

“It just puzzles me that we are acting in a lazy, nobody-wants-to-take-charge way.”

Todesco supports medical marijuana, which is legal for patients with a prescription who order it by mail from growers licensed by Health Canada.

But Todesco quickly learned that the WeeMedical “Dispensary Society” on St. Laurent Boulevard about 300 metres from her home was operating illegally. “If this is a medical need,” Todesco wrote in one of two emails to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “why is it being introduced with no seeming safeguards in the seediest parts of the city, with everyone turning a blind eye?

“If this is a medical dispensary, why is it not housed in a pharmacy where other pharmaceuticals are dispensed … Is the young man with hat and dark glasses outside on a chair the pharmacist checking that the dosage is correct, that there are no interactions with other medications?”

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