Article by Mike Okada, Cannabis Life Network
Clint Younge, the CEO of MMJ Canada, talked to us about how Ontario’s LCBO retail model for recreational cannabis threatens to put all of Ontario’s existing dispensaries out of business, what he hopes to accomplish by speaking to Hamilton city council, and how we can join the fight for fair and common sense cannabis laws.
You recently spoke to Hamilton’s City Council. Can you tell us about the experience?
It was great. I got 45 min to speak and the councillors were listening and asking important, valid questions like “Why are you bringing your dispensaries from Vancouver even though you’re from Hamilton, and why are other dispensaries not following the rules?”
Some dispensaries aren’t following the rules because they are not educated- they don’t know the rules. They don’t know that you’re not supposed to open within 300 m of a school. There’s even one dispensary that’s directly across from a school, like 10 m away! But the dispensaries aren’t doing it out of spite, and the council needs to open the communication lines so we can work together.
I’m trying to help Hamilton with what I learned in Vancouver because Hamilton is my hometown, and I’m like “We need to regulate and figure this out. We need to start talking.”
Which councillors would you consider cannabis-friendly?
There’s so many. 100% councillor Matthew Green is cannabis-friendly. He has no issue with cannabis. He doesn’t like the big corporations and he doesn’t like the LCBO model and he thinks there’s a lot of hypocrisy going on in the government- you can see it with former high-ranking government officials jumping into bed with licensed producers, leaving small businesses to fend for themselves or worse.
But councillor Green also made it very clear that dispensaries need to stay away from schools. If you’re coming to Hamilton, he expects you to operate like a proper business.
There’s also councillors Jason Farr, Terry Whitehead, and Arlene Vanderbeek who believe there needs to be standards but don’t have an issue with cannabis. Even Doug Conley, the councillor who put the motion forward for more enforcement, was open-minded and listened to me. After I talked to the councillors during my delegation, the city actually rewrote the motion!
The original enforcement was for all dispensaries in Hamilton. But after I spoke, the council came back and said “no non-medical cannabis in areas and residences near children”- which I am totally in favor of! And the dispensaries need to give up a little bit, too, but by working with the city, they’ll get to ensure the longevity of their business along with look good in the public eye.
Right now, we have the ability and the chance to do something very major in Ontario. I’ve never seen a city council this friendly and who knows how far they’re going to take this battle.
How do you feel about MMJ Canada locations in Hamilton being raided a few times over the last few months?
If you were to see the way we were raided, you would have came in and looked around like “What, really?”.
Unlike in Toronto where all the staff are being charged along with whoever is on site, Officer Gibson called me and said “Hey Clint, this is a routine raid of your dispensaries but don’t worry, everything will be fine and I’ll let your staff go.”