What happens to the marijuana after Hamilton police raid illegal dispensaries?

News Jan 21, 2019 by Nicole O'Reilly The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton police have seized so much cannabis from illegal dispensaries that they've had to create a special room in the basement of headquarters exclusively devoted to storing evidence.

And that room is already practically full — so full that police say they may soon need to find another storage room offsite.

It's no secret that Hamilton has a dispensary problem. At one point, police believed Hamilton had the most per capita in the province and now, after legalization, there are more than 30 illegal businesses still operating in the city.

Police say they're committed to shutting every single one — a task helped by the creation of a the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team, which includes three Hamilton officers.

The cannabis room at central station is "like a bowling alley," describes Darcia Hamilton, the drug evidence clerk working out of the property branch.

With shelves lining the walls, it is filled with bags of evidence collected from dispensaries, including from 11 raids since legalization Oct. 17, 2018. This is where seized pot sits while a case is before the courts. It's a wait that can be months or years long.

Once a case is done, and the 30-day appeal period passed, drugs can be destroyed. Last year, there were four "drug burn" days that saw 11,500 bags incinerated.

This was a "record high" for the property branch, Hamilton says.

Those bags included everything from small bags of opioids to 3,000-gram bags of marijuana, representing 3,100 cases concluded in court.

Before legalization, pot shop owners were told if they closed, they could have a shot at a legal store in the future. In Hamilton, about 30 voluntarily closed their doors. Currently, cannabis can only be legally purchased online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, with the first bricks and mortar stores coming in April.

How much more cannabis are police seizing? "A whole lot more," Hamilton says. And with dispensary raids, "it just doesn't end."

When detectives seize illegal cannabis, there is a detailed process to follow.

It starts at the scene after police execute a warrant, on average, that takes two officers at least two 10-hour days to prepare and seven officers on scene.

These are now led by the provincial team, but done in coordination with Hamilton Police Service, who seize the cannabis, says vice and drug unit Acting Det. Sgt. Cory Gurman.

After a warrant has been executed, police bag and tag everything in the store: dried bud, oils, edibles, lotions, concentrates. Everything is photographed and the seized product is placed in clear plastic bags with labels that include exactly where it was found.

It's driven back to central station where the seized cannabis products are initially stored in a drying area — a well-ventilated and secure room. It's the job of drug officers to collect samples of the products for testing and process the evidence, Gurman says.

Officers wear gloves and weigh samples, carefully placing a portion on a coffee filter to prevent residue on the scale. Samples are sent for testing to Health Canada, where it takes one or two months to get results.

It can take up to three days to process all the products from one scene, Gurman says.

The remaining cannabis is sealed and taken to the property branch, where large evidence lockers line a storage room on all sides. Once a detective locks the evidence bags in a locker, the key goes into a safe.

This is where Darcia Hamilton takes over.

She takes the bags out of the locker, verifies the evidence, processes the bags and gives them new tags, before putting them in the cannabis dispensary drug storage room. Everything from one warrant is in one box — ready to go to court if needed.

Once a case is done, the drugs go to another room "pending disposal."

It, too, is "well ventilated" and Hamilton describes it as looking like a cage or jail cell. Only three people have access to that room: Hamilton, her supervisor and one other colleague.

When that room is about three-quarters full, she will contact the vice and drug unit, who then contact an undisclosed company for incineration.

Drug officers transport the evidence and make sure it's all destroyed. The company gives police a certificate that goes to Health Canada to confirm all the drugs are gone.

And then the cycle begins again.

"As fast as drugs go out, we're seizing more," Hamilton says. "Like a revolving door."

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

What happens to the marijuana after Hamilton police raid illegal dispensaries?

Hamilton police follow strict rules around storage, paperwork, before drugs are ultimately destroyed.

News Jan 21, 2019 by Nicole O'Reilly The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton police have seized so much cannabis from illegal dispensaries that they've had to create a special room in the basement of headquarters exclusively devoted to storing evidence.

And that room is already practically full — so full that police say they may soon need to find another storage room offsite.

It's no secret that Hamilton has a dispensary problem. At one point, police believed Hamilton had the most per capita in the province and now, after legalization, there are more than 30 illegal businesses still operating in the city.

Police say they're committed to shutting every single one — a task helped by the creation of a the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team, which includes three Hamilton officers.

Related Content

The cannabis room at central station is "like a bowling alley," describes Darcia Hamilton, the drug evidence clerk working out of the property branch.

With shelves lining the walls, it is filled with bags of evidence collected from dispensaries, including from 11 raids since legalization Oct. 17, 2018. This is where seized pot sits while a case is before the courts. It's a wait that can be months or years long.

Once a case is done, and the 30-day appeal period passed, drugs can be destroyed. Last year, there were four "drug burn" days that saw 11,500 bags incinerated.

This was a "record high" for the property branch, Hamilton says.

Those bags included everything from small bags of opioids to 3,000-gram bags of marijuana, representing 3,100 cases concluded in court.

Before legalization, pot shop owners were told if they closed, they could have a shot at a legal store in the future. In Hamilton, about 30 voluntarily closed their doors. Currently, cannabis can only be legally purchased online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, with the first bricks and mortar stores coming in April.

How much more cannabis are police seizing? "A whole lot more," Hamilton says. And with dispensary raids, "it just doesn't end."

When detectives seize illegal cannabis, there is a detailed process to follow.

It starts at the scene after police execute a warrant, on average, that takes two officers at least two 10-hour days to prepare and seven officers on scene.

These are now led by the provincial team, but done in coordination with Hamilton Police Service, who seize the cannabis, says vice and drug unit Acting Det. Sgt. Cory Gurman.

After a warrant has been executed, police bag and tag everything in the store: dried bud, oils, edibles, lotions, concentrates. Everything is photographed and the seized product is placed in clear plastic bags with labels that include exactly where it was found.

It's driven back to central station where the seized cannabis products are initially stored in a drying area — a well-ventilated and secure room. It's the job of drug officers to collect samples of the products for testing and process the evidence, Gurman says.

Officers wear gloves and weigh samples, carefully placing a portion on a coffee filter to prevent residue on the scale. Samples are sent for testing to Health Canada, where it takes one or two months to get results.

It can take up to three days to process all the products from one scene, Gurman says.

The remaining cannabis is sealed and taken to the property branch, where large evidence lockers line a storage room on all sides. Once a detective locks the evidence bags in a locker, the key goes into a safe.

This is where Darcia Hamilton takes over.

She takes the bags out of the locker, verifies the evidence, processes the bags and gives them new tags, before putting them in the cannabis dispensary drug storage room. Everything from one warrant is in one box — ready to go to court if needed.

Once a case is done, the drugs go to another room "pending disposal."

It, too, is "well ventilated" and Hamilton describes it as looking like a cage or jail cell. Only three people have access to that room: Hamilton, her supervisor and one other colleague.

When that room is about three-quarters full, she will contact the vice and drug unit, who then contact an undisclosed company for incineration.

Drug officers transport the evidence and make sure it's all destroyed. The company gives police a certificate that goes to Health Canada to confirm all the drugs are gone.

And then the cycle begins again.

"As fast as drugs go out, we're seizing more," Hamilton says. "Like a revolving door."

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

What happens to the marijuana after Hamilton police raid illegal dispensaries?

Hamilton police follow strict rules around storage, paperwork, before drugs are ultimately destroyed.

News Jan 21, 2019 by Nicole O'Reilly The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton police have seized so much cannabis from illegal dispensaries that they've had to create a special room in the basement of headquarters exclusively devoted to storing evidence.

And that room is already practically full — so full that police say they may soon need to find another storage room offsite.

It's no secret that Hamilton has a dispensary problem. At one point, police believed Hamilton had the most per capita in the province and now, after legalization, there are more than 30 illegal businesses still operating in the city.

Police say they're committed to shutting every single one — a task helped by the creation of a the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team, which includes three Hamilton officers.

Related Content

The cannabis room at central station is "like a bowling alley," describes Darcia Hamilton, the drug evidence clerk working out of the property branch.

With shelves lining the walls, it is filled with bags of evidence collected from dispensaries, including from 11 raids since legalization Oct. 17, 2018. This is where seized pot sits while a case is before the courts. It's a wait that can be months or years long.

Once a case is done, and the 30-day appeal period passed, drugs can be destroyed. Last year, there were four "drug burn" days that saw 11,500 bags incinerated.

This was a "record high" for the property branch, Hamilton says.

Those bags included everything from small bags of opioids to 3,000-gram bags of marijuana, representing 3,100 cases concluded in court.

Before legalization, pot shop owners were told if they closed, they could have a shot at a legal store in the future. In Hamilton, about 30 voluntarily closed their doors. Currently, cannabis can only be legally purchased online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, with the first bricks and mortar stores coming in April.

How much more cannabis are police seizing? "A whole lot more," Hamilton says. And with dispensary raids, "it just doesn't end."

When detectives seize illegal cannabis, there is a detailed process to follow.

It starts at the scene after police execute a warrant, on average, that takes two officers at least two 10-hour days to prepare and seven officers on scene.

These are now led by the provincial team, but done in coordination with Hamilton Police Service, who seize the cannabis, says vice and drug unit Acting Det. Sgt. Cory Gurman.

After a warrant has been executed, police bag and tag everything in the store: dried bud, oils, edibles, lotions, concentrates. Everything is photographed and the seized product is placed in clear plastic bags with labels that include exactly where it was found.

It's driven back to central station where the seized cannabis products are initially stored in a drying area — a well-ventilated and secure room. It's the job of drug officers to collect samples of the products for testing and process the evidence, Gurman says.

Officers wear gloves and weigh samples, carefully placing a portion on a coffee filter to prevent residue on the scale. Samples are sent for testing to Health Canada, where it takes one or two months to get results.

It can take up to three days to process all the products from one scene, Gurman says.

The remaining cannabis is sealed and taken to the property branch, where large evidence lockers line a storage room on all sides. Once a detective locks the evidence bags in a locker, the key goes into a safe.

This is where Darcia Hamilton takes over.

She takes the bags out of the locker, verifies the evidence, processes the bags and gives them new tags, before putting them in the cannabis dispensary drug storage room. Everything from one warrant is in one box — ready to go to court if needed.

Once a case is done, the drugs go to another room "pending disposal."

It, too, is "well ventilated" and Hamilton describes it as looking like a cage or jail cell. Only three people have access to that room: Hamilton, her supervisor and one other colleague.

When that room is about three-quarters full, she will contact the vice and drug unit, who then contact an undisclosed company for incineration.

Drug officers transport the evidence and make sure it's all destroyed. The company gives police a certificate that goes to Health Canada to confirm all the drugs are gone.

And then the cycle begins again.

"As fast as drugs go out, we're seizing more," Hamilton says. "Like a revolving door."

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec