Hamilton police shut down dozens of pot dispensaries, and all but 2 reopened again

It's a clear sign Hamilton is losing its battle against illegal marijuana dispensaries. Every time police or the city try to shut one down, new numbers show, they just open back up again.
Hamilton city officials say every time they manage to close down a marijuana dispensary, it just opens up again in a different location. (Evan Mitsui/CBCNews)

It's a clear sign Hamilton is losing its battle against illegal marijuana dispensaries. Every time police or the city try to shut one down, new numbers show, they just open back up again.

Is it working? No. We wouldn't have the proliferation of dispensaries if it was working.- Ken Leendertse, city director of licensing

Lloyd Ferguson, Ancaster councillor and chair of the police services board, says police have shut down 42 dispensaries, and all but two reopened again.

City efforts aren't much better. Bylaw staff have identified 80 dispensaries in total, and 47 are operating now, said Ken Leendertse, director of licensing.

But of the 33 authorities have managed to close, he said, most of them just moved to a different location and reopened again.

That shows the system isn't working, Leendertse said. The city tries to use existing rules to crack down, including whether a building is zoned properly, or whether edibles are stored according to public health regulations.

But that's all it can do until the province either makes dispensaries legal, or gives them better tools.

The city needs, for example, the ability to issue heavy enough fines to act as a deterrent, Leendertse said. Until then, the process of trying to close a dispensary is long and labour intensive.

"We are working with the teeth we've been given," he said.

"Is it working? No. We wouldn't have the proliferation of dispensaries if it was working."

Marijuana will be legal in Canada on Oct. 17, but just how that distribution will play out in Ontario is unclear.

The previous Ontario Liberal government said marijuana would only be distributed in LCBO-owned stores. That means 40 stores would open this year, and 150 stores by 2020. 

Premier-Elect Doug Ford said in late June that he'd focus on the LCBO plan. But he'll also consult with municipalities, stakeholders and his caucus to decide whether to change the model.

City staff say legalization will cost the city about $2 million, of which $1.6 million will likely come from the province. That doesn't include the cost of training police on issues such as impaired driving.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.