May 26, 2016 / 6:31 PM / a year ago

Toronto police raid marijuana stores in latest Canada crackdown

TORONTO, May 26 (Reuters) - Toronto police have started raiding and shutting down some marijuana dispensaries in Canada's largest city, a spokesman said on Thursday, the latest crackdown by local authorities as the federal government moves to legalize the drug.

The police spokesman said officers are executing search warrants and seizing products from stores they believe are selling to recreational users.

Canadians are allowed to use medical marijuana with a prescription, but recreational use is illegal.

Even so, unlicensed dispensaries have multiplied in Toronto, Vancouver and other Canadian cities since the country's Liberal government came to power last year pledging to legalize recreational marijuana. Some of these stores have been accused of selling to people without proper prescriptions.

The government has said it will introduce a law in spring 2017 to fulfill its pledge, but in the meantime, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, the government's point man on legalization, has emphasized the current laws remain in effect.

Toronto's move comes within a month of a similar operation by Vancouver, which handed out tickets to unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

Vancouver's enforcement, however, did not involve police, who had said they would not crack down on dispensaries as long as they do not sell to minors and are not selling other illicit drugs.

It was not immediately clear how many Toronto stores were being raided in the operation, dubbed "Project Claudia," or what charges, if any, were laid.

Toronto police said they will not comment on the specifics of the operation while it is under way, and that an update can be expected on Friday. (Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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