Hamilton Ontario Police raid numerous illegal dispensaries over the last few weeks

Published Mar 10, 2019 11:13 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Chris Young

Hamilton has long been considered to be a sort of hotbed for cannabis culture. It’s easy to see if you take a short stroll down almost any street in the city and as you pass at least one illegal marijuana dispensary on the way. The city has well over 100 illicit storefronts that openly sell and advertise dry herb, concentrates, oils, and marijuana edibles, selling them to anyone of legal age to purchase. For a while after legal marijuana was initially announced the police seemed to back off and allow what they refer to as grey market dealers to continue function just like any other business.

When the Canadian government announced the opening of the Ontario Cannabis Store many rejoiced, but OCS opening didn’t have much of an impact on this area, it was business as usual for the many bustling dispensaries in Hamilton. Some other cities across Canada saw a rise in action, but council members and constituents in the area were waiting in hopes of an official licencing process that would put an end to fiscal waste spent on controlling a now legal substance. Unfortunately, that all changed once the Ford government announced that Ontario would not be allowing just anyone to apply for a marijuana dispensary licence, and instead they would hold an official lottery resulting in a mere 21 licences to cover the entire province.

Once the details were made official, and names of the 21 winners were drawn Ontarians saw a dramatic shift. One that went from hesitance to swift and coordinated efforts to close any illegal dispensaries in time for the legitimate licence holding owners to open shop. So far, it appears that three of those licenses that were granted went to companies who intend on locating in or around Hamilton on April 1 of 2019. As of January 11th, a total of 11 dispensaries had been raided by Hamilton police who invited the media to make a mockery of the event. Since then another 31 storefronts have been added to the list of closures. Though many of them had experienced temporary disruptions from random attacks in the past, this time it appears as though they may stay closed forever.

Many customers cite issues with the OCS website as their number one reason for turning to black market dispensaries in the first place. With wait times of 2 days or more for shipping, non competitive prices, and absolutely no way to actually see the products they have available, most prefer the storefront experience that has every one of those concerns beat. Most illicit stores offer immediate service, access to edibles, tinctures, oils, and other concentrates that are currently illegal, and a selection that took years to establish, it’s no wonder these illegal dispensaries weren’t feeling any heat or change from marijuana legalization until these recent takedowns. Will we see any of our beloved storefronts back anytime in the future? Only time will tell, but so far, it’s looking like the majority will be closed for at least a year as the results of the province’s plan plays out for all to see.

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