Article by Mark Newman, Hamilton Mountain News
The number of legal cannabis shops across Hamilton would sprout like weeds if the province approves the more than 30 applications on file with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
About 10 of the applications are in and around the downtown core, five on the Mountain and the rest spread out from Stoney Creek, to Ancaster to Dundas.
Glanbrook is the only community within the city that does not have a current application before the commission.
Currently, there are legal pot shops in upper Stoney Creek, on Centennial Parkway North, on Wilson Street in Ancaster and on Barton East and Cootes Drive.
City records do not show any legal pot shops on the Mountain.
“Each store applicant is at a different stage of the licensing process, so I cannot provide an estimated date when the process will conclude,” said commission spokesperson Raymond Kahnert. “Before issuing a licence to any operator, the (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) undertakes a comprehensive assessment of the applicant and all interested parties, including police and background checks.”
Trying to predict the future of the cannabis industry is going to be difficult according to Mike DeVillaer, a faculty member in the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences, and a faculty associate with The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and the Boris Centre for Addictions Research at McMaster University.
“I think that will be true for everywhere in Canada,” he said. “It’s going to be an adventure, I think.”
While a jump in the number of legal cannabis outlets in Hamilton will likely encourage more people who have never used pot before to try it, that does not necessarily mean there will be a big boost in usage.
“That depends on how much promotion we allow,” said DeVillaer, who noted currently cannabis cannot be publicly advertised. “If we start advertising cannabis the way we advertise alcohol, I think we’re in trouble.”
DeVillaer said a Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey shows only 15 per cent of adults use cannabis occasionally while 80 per cent used alcohol.
“That’s a big difference,” said DeVillaer, who noted if the federal government changes the rules to enable cannabis companies to sponsor events and offer celebrity endorsements, those numbers could jump dramatically.
“There’s a potential for harm,” DeVillaer said. “Cannabis is nowhere near the problem alcohol and tobacco is, but it is still a problem.”
DeVillaer said there is not a lot of evidence to show that cannabis is a gateway drug to other, more harmful narcotics. He noted the bigger risk is what happens when pot users start mixing it with alcohol and tobacco.
“I’d be much more concerned about that than I’d be about it leading to other drugs
DeVillaer noted that in the 1960s about half of Canada’s adult population used tobacco. Today, after many years of restrictions and anti-smoking initiatives that is down to about 20 per cent.
Rebecca Jesseman, policy director at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, agreed there is little evidence linking pot use alone with other drugs.