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This article was published 17/4/2020 (273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
More than $200,000 in properly-packaged cannabis, vaping oil and marijuana shatter were seized during a police raid of an unlicensed but sophisticated online cannabis delivery service.
After being tipped off by the Manitoba Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority and provincial justice department public safety investigators, Winnipeg Police Service officers searched a warehouse in Sargent Park that was being used to store cannabis for an online business operating as Dr. Kush. They arrested a 43-year-old man April 15 who faces charges under the Cannabis Act of illegally possessing and selling cannabis and possessing the proceeds of crime.
Two other suspects are still outstanding, police announced Friday.
The business was illegal, but was using government-regulated cannabis packaging and kept detailed accounting records, said Patrol Sgt. Jeffrey Norman, of the central division community support unit, during a WPS news conference that displayed the seized products Friday. Couriers working for Dr. Kush offered citywide delivery but camouflaged the drugs inside the same type of insulated bags used by local food delivery services, police said.
Despite the business being "well-organized," its site was dirty, lacked quality control and may have had rodents, Norman said.
"This warehouse was by no means clean. In and amongst the processing of putting these bags together was rodent feces, so obviously a legitimate business would not allow that to be introduced into the packaging and the delivery of a product. But this wasn't their concern. Their concern was obviously getting a product and making financial gains," Norman said.
He said the unlicensed operation came to light at the beginning of February and the WPS unit was notified last month. Police hadn't tested the seized cannabis, nor had they received any reports from customers who may have received tainted drugs.
"For most of the customers of this company, this is going to be their first announcement that there had been any type of trouble in respect to law enforcement investigating this business."
The Dr. Kush website was still running as of Friday afternoon, although products were listed as out of stock and its Instagram page had been deactivated. The website indicated the cannabis was grown under a medical marijuana licence "and gifted to us to share with you" -- something Norman said is clearly illegal under Canada's cannabis laws.
Steven Stairs, a Winnipeg cannabis advocate, said he had been a customer of Dr. Kush since October 2018. The business, a fairly large and well-known online delivery service, was efficient and accepted e-transfers and cash, he said. Stairs said he was disturbed to learn Friday about sanitation and quality control issues in the warehouse.
"They had awesome customer service, same-day delivery, a large selection of product, friendly staff. It was a good company, the way it was run. Now, I have concerns about the back end, the warehouse with rodents," he said.
He said the legalization of cannabis still hasn't shut down the local black market, suggesting clients who purchased illegal cannabis are still doing so because they want a better-quality product at a lower price.
"With legalization, it didn't eliminate the black market. It created two separate markets," he said. "They don't compete with each other."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.