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.
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.