Pot plan will keep the black market running, dispensary manager tells Premier Wynne

The manager of a recently raided Hamilton cannabis dispensary faced off with Premier Kathleen Wynne Tuesday to say Ontario's legalization plan is inadequate and won't stamp out the black market.

'40 stores is just the beginning,' Wynne told a dispensary manager, 'and I think you know that'

Premier Kathleen Wynne is holding a series of town halls across Ontario. She was in Ancaster Tuesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The manager of a recently raided Hamilton cannabis dispensary faced off with Premier Kathleen Wynne Tuesday to say Ontario's legalization plan is inadequate and won't stamp out the black market.

Vikki Smythe, 24, told Wynne at a town hall that people will keep using dealers because the Ontario Liberal plan isn't enough to meet demand.

Wynne's government plans to sell pot through the LCBO when it becomes legal this summer, starting with 40 stores in the first year. Smythe said one store for Hamilton isn't enough when there are dozens of dispensaries.

"Forty stores is not going to undercut the black market. It's just going to shove people right back in," said Smythe, who is location manager for a medical marijuana dispensary.

"Forty stores is just the beginning and I think you know that," Wynne said.

"There's 48 stores in Hamilton, ma'am, and you're proposing one," Smythe said. "That's unrealistic as someone who sees the numbers."

"We are working to make sure this is done in a safe and reasonable way," Wynne responded. "That's why the plan that we've put in place is the one we're going to go forward with."

William Murray and Isabelle Dicks of Normandale came to hear Wynne speak. Murray is an auto worker at Toyota's Cambridge plant who's trying to raise awareness of the province exempting auto workers from new labour laws. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Wynne did a town hall at the Ancaster Fairground as part of a series of town halls to get "input on a plan to help people get ahead in the changing economy."

The Tuesday event was Wynne's sixth and drew about 170 people. Topics included injured workers, building new schools versus repairing old ones, and how Ontario's steel market will fare in the face of tariffs and trade negotiations with U.S. president Donald Trump.

Smythe told Wynne Ontario should consider a model like the one in British Columbia, where existing dispensaries are regulated. She, like many pot advocates, see the Liberal plan as one that will line the pockets of current and former politicians.

Wynne's answer, she said afterward, was "kind of not what I was hoping, but it's what I expected."

"Forty stores is not going to undercut the black market," Vikki Smythe, location manager of a medical marijuana dispensary, told Kathleen Wynne. "It’s just going to shove people right back in." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Lachlan Holmes, 15, asks Wynne about access to assistive devices. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Other Wynne critics in the audience included Doug Penner of Burlington and William Murray of Norfolk County. Both are auto workers at the Cambridge Toyota plant who were left out of Ontario's recent labour law improvements.

Murray wore a shirt with a line through a picture of Wynne. Penner, who came straight from the plant, wore fluorescent orange work gear.

While a new law gives most employees a minimum of 10 personal emergency leave days a year, auto workers only get seven because of a special exemption in Bill 148. That's the same law that increases minimum wage.

About 170 people attended Premier Kathleen Wynne's town hall in Ancaster. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The exemption is part of a pilot project dating back to last January – one that feels "never ending," Murray said.

"We've all got some questions to ask," said the Normandale, Ont., resident. "I want the same coverage as everyone else does."

The group plans a rally at Queen's Park on Sunday, April 22, he said.

"Unfortunately, we have to do it on Sunday because that's the only day we get off."


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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