The legal cannabis market in Hamilton has more than doubled in size.
Thirteen new pot shops have been authorized to open by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) since November. Eight were approved in December alone.
Six of the stores are in or near downtown, two each are in Stoney Creek and Waterdown, and one each are in east Hamilton, Westdale and the Mountain.
The wave of new approvals brings the total number of cannabis shops in the city to 23 — up considerably from the 10 reported in early September.
And it is a figure that could yet increase threefold.
The AGCO is reviewing more than 55 retail licence applications for pot shops throughout Hamilton.
Nearly all are listed as “in progress,” indicating the applications have been vetted with public concerns and resubmitted to the commission for formal review.
If passed, Hamilton could have about 80 cannabis stores stretching from the lower city to the Mountain, Ancaster to Winona and Waterdown to Binbrook.
That wouldn’t be welcome news to some city councillors who have railed against how the province has handled the cannabis legalization rollout.
In August, councillors backed a motion to urge Ontario to consider a radial separation rule between dispensaries.
The buffer-zone policy would prevent clusters of pot shops, which Coun. Jason Farr likened to an unnecessary use of pre-existing commercial spaces.
“I am not anti-marijuana. It’s legislated, it’s a federally legal product. Clearly, though, we have an Ontario government that’s literally rubber-stamping applications,” said Farr, whose Ward 2 has more pot shops than anywhere else in the city.
Nine dispensaries have been given the green light to open in the downtown core since January 2019, when council opted for legal private cannabis outlets in Hamilton in a close vote.
The six approved in December sit within a three-and-a-half-kilometre radius.
“I don’t know how well served we’re going to be if we see areas of our city, let alone downtown, (experience) a takeover of pot shops, because ultimately that equates to a loss of commercial variety,” said Farr.
Farr particularly alluded to areas like Hess Street and the International Village, which have become entertainment and culinary hubs in recent years.