The Ontario government’s decision to shut down cannabis stores in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic will only send customers back to the black market where they’ll buy unregulated products, says one prominent retailer.
Cameron Brown, spokesman for the The Hunny Pot, says his company has two stores open already and four under construction. The company’s location in downtown Toronto was one of the first to open in April 2019 and has been doing brisk enough business that more stores are on the way.
He said after Premier Doug Ford announced pot shops would be closed due to COVID, his store in Toronto and another location in Burlington were swamped.
“As soon as that announcement came in both stores were lined up around the corner, doing double the business than in previous days,” Brown said Sunday as he worked filing compliance reports with the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Like other cannabis retailers, some of The Hunny Pot customers were new to smoking pot, many others were people who had previously purchased from dealers or illegal dispensaries.
“We are about to give everything back,” Brown said of the inevitable growth in the black market if stores like his remain closed.
Brown noted illegal pot shops and online delivery services are targeting his locations with advertising for customers who may not realize the shops were forced to close.
“I go up to our store in the Junction and there is a sticker up saying text to get weed,” Brown said. “We are pushing people to unregulated product.”
Being shut down also has an incredible economic impact.
“We have six different rents that are coming out; we have employees to worry about,” Brown said.