Article by Britney Guerra, Hamilton Spectator
Here we are, Hamilton. Post-legalization, still arguing about cannabis shops. Since I opened the Medicine Cabinet (Hamilton’s first dispensary) in March of 2016, Hamilton has exploded with retail cannabis stores. They have been raided by police, fined by the city, robbed, victimized by arson, and worse. Through all of these hurdles, the stores remain uncontrolled, unregulated, and seemingly unstoppable. The reason: The market is enormous and so is the revenue.
As my career progressed, I opened the Cannabis Culture at 275 King St. E., in Hamilton. On average at our one downtown location we served over 700 people a day. Seven hundred people coming to the International BIA to spend their hard-earned money at a local business and then going across the street to Denninger’s for lunch. Later, shopping next door at the Vintage Soul Geek. The Village was bustling.
Hamilton is known as the cannabis capital of Ontario to enthusiasts. People come to the city from all across this province, from Niagara to Mississauga, multiple times a week. Folks come here to experience the front lines of modern cannabis culture. Why on earth would councillors risk letting neighbouring municipalities get a piece of Hamilton’s glory?
The Ontario government has opened up a private market for the people. No, the regulations are not perfect. But they are a start. Here I am, a former dispensary owner with a shuttered store, praising regulation in the hopes of a brighter future. For 10 years I have dreamed of legalization and legitimization, and now the future lies in city hall’s hands.
I have estimated the City Of Hamilton has spent $1.5 million in the last two years fighting dispensaries. The provincial government has $40 million to grant to municipalities that choose to opt-in. Around $1.6 million is allocated to Hamilton.