HAMILTON, Ont. — Hamilton police raided a controversial medical marijuana grow-operation after the National Post revealed it was operated by a gangster who had been murdered in Toronto.
Officers with the Vice and Drug unit raided the large building in the city’s east end on April 11, Hamilton police said, five days after the Post published a report on the facility’s connection to organized crime through Antonio Sergi, a mob-linked Toronto man known as “Tony Large” who was shot in his driveway last month.
By the time officers arrived at the marijuana business, however, all plants and people were gone, according to a police statement.
“The Hamilton Police Service received information in regards to a marijuana grow operation at 229 Kenilworth Ave. N. in the City of Hamilton,” says a written statement from police.
“An investigation commenced and a search warrant was sought and granted,” it says. “The operation had been dismantled and removed. There was, however, evidence of a previous marijuana grow operation.”
The Post was explicitly told by Health Canada earlier this month that the facility was not licensed as a medical marijuana facility, contrary to what the city had been told. On Thursday, Health Canada said it could not comment on the facility’s status for privacy reasons.
Police said the investigation is closed and would not provide any additional information on the raid, nor answer questions on previous police involvement with the building.
The stiff resistance to discuss the raid, which is unusual, suggests it may be related to the homicide investigation in Toronto. Sergi’s murder remains unsolved.
After neighbours complained last year of a strong marijuana odour, city bylaw officials and Hamilton police investigated and reported to council that it was a federally licensed medical marijuana grow operation, said Sam Merulla, city councillor for the area.
The city was surprised since it started without contacting city licensing or zoning officials and officials complained it circumvented all municipal processes, said Merulla. The city and Sergi ended up in court in a fight to shut it down.
The large, dilapidated building, a former bar called Boomers at 229 Kenilworth Ave. N., looked abandoned and derelict even when it was operating. The smell of marijuana wafted from it when a reporter visited on April 5.
On April 6, the Post revealed the victim of a gangland-style slaying in Toronto was heavily involved in the medical marijuana business. Sergi not only led a province-wide bid to unionize medical marijuana growers but also was behind the Kenilworth pot farm.
As part of a legal dispute over his pot operation, Sergi filed a sworn affidavit in court saying he must stay in the building because the federal government wouldn’t let him move: “the plants must be grown either on the property or not at all.” To move would require the federal government’s permission and disrupt the medical needs of people requiring the marijuana, he wrote.
Sergi, the city and the building’s owner came to a settlement shortly before Sergi’s death, with Sergi expected to vacate the building this month.
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