Article by James McClure, Civilized
The Ontario government fired the first shot in a province-wide war on illegal medical marijuana dispensaries last week. “If you operate one of these dispensaries, consider yourself on notice,” Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said while pledging to close every dispensary in the province over the next 12 months.
The news was depressingly predictable for people who have fought to make the “gray market” dispensaries part of the legalization framework in Ontario.
“I was scared but not surprised,” Lisa Campbell, a spokesperson for the Cannabis Friendly Business Association (CFBA) told Civilized. “In every meeting that we’ve had with government in the last two years, it’s been hinted that this is coming. But the message was scary because they said that over the next 12 months, they’re going to be closing down every single dispensary in Ontario. So all the dispensaries have been put on watch. And we’re all frantically organizing to save what we think is our constitutional right to have these storefront dispensaries.”
Right now, the only legal way for patients to buy medical marijuana is through a mail-order system run by cannabis producers licensed by Health Canada. But dispensaries have been around for decades and their numbers have grown dramatically since 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize recreational cannabis use. Many stores sprung up hoping to become recreational retailers when the country repeals prohibition in 2018, but those hopes appear to have gone up in smoke as far as Ontario is concerned.
Campbell explained that the province is taking a hardline stance against dispensaries because they believe dispensaries are stocking shelves with product obtained through organized crime. But many storefronts are willing to start selling government-regulated cannabis if it means they can keep their doors open.