Article by Mike Hager, The Globe and Mail
The entrepreneurs behind Canada’s two biggest chains of illegal marijuana dispensaries say they will continue to expand the number of their storefronts aggressively across the country while the federal and provincial governments take the next two years to fine-tune new laws to legalize the substance.
A day after an independent panel provided Ottawa with a road map for ending the prohibition on recreational marijuana that could include dispensaries, MP Bill Blair, the government’s point person on the issue, warned that, in the meantime, anyone selling marijuana outside the federal mail-order system is breaking the law and police could raid their stores.
But those behind two Vancouver-based chains say the new report indicates they will have two years of challenging the existing cannabis laws – and police departments’ appetite for enforcing them – during which they plan to open more than 100 new stores across Canada. They say they are willing to comply with future regulations and hope to join the regulated sector once the federal laws change, but Mr. Blair said it is too early to say whether the new legal system will allow dispensaries to participate.
“We’re scaling up right now and I believe we could have as many Cannabis Culture [dispensaries] as there are Starbucks,” said Jodie Emery, who is in Montreal opening eight shops to add to an empire of 12 franchises. “I know that sounds crazy, but I feel it’s only fair if marijuana is available as much as that recreational drug [coffee].”
She said investors are lining up to open the retail outlets, which sell to any adult.
“One of our investors has decided to open up franchises in Montreal, and we get requests from all across Canada to open in basically every city,” Ms. Emery said.