More than 10,000 Canadians received a medically-assisted death in 2021: report
Quebec Superior Court suspends Bill 96’s translation requirement until constitutionality determined
The Ontario government has given Maggie an ultimatum: the disabled teen can lose her funding or her independence
FBI took 11 sets of classified material from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home while investigating possible Espionage Act violations (US)
Ontario class action settlement reclassifies volunteers as employees, setting new precedent
Availability of Judicial Review in SABS Disputes
Are masking policies still valid?
Justice Canada releases commission report on impact of lack of legal aid in family law disputes
Harmonized sales tax part of maximum amount of attendant care benefits owed by insurer: court
New rules coming next month to help Canadians with cancelled and delayed flights
Stephen King set to testify for govt in books merger trial (US)
New law program in Quebec to begin next fall, a first in 50 years
The Impact of the Lack of Legal Aid in Family Law Cases
SCC rules that when someone is required by their partner to wear a condom but do not, they could be guilty of sexual assault.
Big Plastic suing feds over single-use ban — again
Tim Hortons offers coffee and doughnut as proposed settlement in class action lawsuit
The SCC has refused to hear the appeal to declare the renewal of the state of health emergency by the Quebec government invalid
Federal privacy commissioner investigating controversial ArriveCAN app
Kraken, a U.S. Crypto Exchange, Is Suspected of Violating Sanctions (US)
Ontario court certifies class action on former patients’ anxiety from notice of risk of infection
The stakes couldn’t be higher as Canada’s top court decides whether to hear climate class action lawsuit
Professor Barnali Choudhury selected by EU as trade and sustainable development expert
The Supreme Court decision on the ‘Ghomeshi’ amendments will help sexual assault victims access justice
AFN Reaches $20 B Final Settlement Agreement to Compensate First Nations Children and Families

CAFE landlord cleared of all cannabis charges as latest attempt to crack down on illegal pot shop fails

Mohsen Ghelichkhani acquitted on 6 counts of allowing his property to be used for unlawful sale of weed.

PHOTO: Mohsen Ghelichkhani, seen here in a Facebook photo dated 2016, is the first CAFE landlord whose trial has finished. Prosecutors say they are reviewing the justice of the peace's ruling. (Facebook)
Authorities in Toronto have resoundingly lost the latest round in their long-running battle to shutter a notorious chain of illegal pot shops, as a justice of the peace Wednesday afternoon acquitted the landlord of CAFE’s flagship store on all six provincial cannabis charges he was facing.

Authorities in Toronto have resoundingly lost the latest round in their long-running battle to shutter a notorious chain of illegal pot shops, as a justice of the peace Wednesday afternoon acquitted the landlord of CAFE’s flagship store on all six provincial cannabis charges he was facing.

Mohsen Ghelichkhani was on trial under Ontario’s Cannabis Control Act, which makes it illegal for a landlord to “knowingly permit a premises” to be used to sell illegal weed.

Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Ghelichkhani didn’t act forcefully or quickly enough to evict CAFE from the ground-floor condo unit he owns at 66 Fort York Blvd. once he learned they were operating in violation of the provincial law.

But in her ruling Wednesday, Justice of the Peace Rhonda Roffey said that while “much of his testimony did not ring true or seemed deliberately vague,” the evidence was still that the mortgage broker and property investor took the only reasonable steps that were available to him under the circumstances, given CAFE’s determination to flout the law.

“CAFE have proven that they would go to any lengths to keep their business open,” Roffey said in her decision. “Each and every time that police laid charges and emptied the premises of employees and products, CAFE was able to reopen and continue to operate.”


Ghelichkhani convinced a justice of the peace that he took reasonable steps to try to deal with the illegal CAFE pot shop operating out of his condo unit at 66 Fort York Blvd., in Toronto’s CityPlace neighbourhood. (Instagram)

Ghelichkhani’s lawyer, Noel Gerry, said his client “is extremely happy with the result.”

“He feels that his hands were tied throughout and that he is vindicated,” Gerry continued. He added that it seems unfair that the landlords, and not the operators or owners of the illegal pot shops, are bearing the brunt of law enforcement’s attempts to shut down CAFE.

“It’s my belief that the onus shouldn’t be put on landlords, and this section [of the Cannabis Control Act] needs to be revisited,” Gerry said.

Ghelichkhani argued at trial that he had few options to deal with his law-defying tenants, because police had placed a closure order on his property the day after cannabis became legal in Canada. Closure orders under the Cannabis Control Act forbid any person from entering or attempting to enter closed premises, except emergency responders in exigent circumstances.

“They can’t put a closure order on the property and then expect the landlord to take reasonable measures when they’re really pulling the rug out from under his feet,” Gerry told CBC News.

The City of Toronto, whose lawyers prosecuted the case, gave a short statement Wednesday evening saying the city is “reviewing the decision on this matter and is not able to provide additional information at this time.”

Trial postponed due to COVID-19

The six counts against Ghelichkhani under Section 13 of the Cannabis Control Act dated back to 2018, 2019 and early 2020. His trial on the first three of those counts was supposed to begin back in 2020, but the pandemic forced a postponement.

Three other landlords for CAFE’s locations on Harbord Street, Bloor Street and St. Clair Avenue are facing similar provincial charges. One of them, Ali Gillani, is in mid-trial, and the other two — both numbered companies — are scheduled to go on trial in the fall.

Gerry said the ruling in Ghelichkhani’s case isn’t binding on the other trials, but if the facts are similar, then the same arguments he raised “should hold water in any future case.”


City workers placed huge slabs of concrete in front of the CAFE outlet in July 2019, part of a cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and the chain of pot cafés. (CBC)

The provincial charges against all four landlords are the latest steps in the long-running, costly and so-far failed attempts by law enforcement to shut down CAFE, which stands for Cannabis and Fine Edibles.

Raiding the renegade weed chain’s outlets, seizing their supplies of bud, changing the locks, welding the doors shut and, finally, piling huge concrete slabs in front of the entrances to bar access — none of it has worked. Each time, the same stores have reopened, sometimes within hours.

Last year, the City of Toronto’s head of licensing and standards, Carleton Grant, told CBC Toronto that “we’ve gotten to a point where we need to rely on the court process to deal with this.”

Now that that strategy has failed its first big test, it’s unclear what, if any, further steps the city might take against CAFE. While authorities have laid charges against the pot shops’ employees and landlords, a city enforcement officer testifying at Ghelichkhani’s trial said he understood that his colleagues are still in the dark about who actually owns and runs CAFE.


Wesley Weber, left, who has a long criminal record, was one of the early owners of CAFE along with his lifelong friend Jon Galvano, right. Galvano’s name came up at trial. (jon_bilzeri_aint/Instagram)

A CBC News investigation starting in 2019 found that two men originally from southwestern

Ontario — Jon Galvano, who died in Mexico last year, and his lifelong friend Wesley Weber, who has a long criminal record most notably for counterfeiting — were among CAFE’s early founders and owners.

Testifying in his own defence last month, Ghelichkhani revealed for the first time that it was Galvano who signed the lease and was the original tenant at CAFE’s initial location at 66 Fort York Blvd., which opened in 2016.

On his since deleted but once prolific Instagram account, Galvano appears to refer to Ghelichkhani in a 2018 post as a “good friend” who rented out his penthouse to Galvano not far from the flagship CAFE location.



In a pair of Instagram posts from his since deleted account in February 2018, Jon Galvano discusses the penthouse he has just rented in Toronto’s CityPlace neighbourhood and the two ‘good friends’ he rented it from. Some usernames have been blacked out for privacy reasons. (j.galvano/Instagram)

Zach Dubinsky is an investigative journalist. His reporting on offshore tax havens (including the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers), political corruption and organized crime has won multiple national and international awards. Phone: 416-205-7553. Twitter: @DubinskyZach Email


Want direct access to the latest LITN content?

Stay in the loop ➞ Subscribe to LITN instant notifications.
Receive the latest content delivered directly to your device.
Unsubscribe at anytime.

Latest News


Join the LITN Newsletter ➞ the latest news delivered to your inbox. Unsubscribe at any time.


Instagram Feed