Article by Dale Carruthers, London Free Press
ONEIDA — Recreational cannabis is being legalized in just two week, but illegal pot shops keep popping up in Ontario Indigenous communities, including one shop near London linked to a former band chief.
The explosion of illegal marijuana dispensaries is a divisive issue in aboriginal communities. Operators say the outlets, whose customers drive in from nearby cities and towns, bring needed jobs to their communities.
But critics, including the chief of the same Southwestern Ontario community where the former chief works at a pot shop, say the businesses shouldn’t be allowed to operate unregulated.
And with Ontario warning any illegal operators won’t get a crack at becoming legal retailers, the growth in outlets defying the law still looms large even with recreational marijuana use becoming legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
A 30-minute drive southwest of London, four dispensaries have set up shop in recent months on the Oneida of the Thames First Nation, a small community of little more than 2,100 people.
Police have fought similar illegal operators in cities across Ontario in whack-a-mole style raids, shutting them down only to see them return, but the crackdowns has trailed off as legal cannabis use nears.