Headshop owner worries province will sell bongs, pipes alongside weed

A London headshop owners worries the Ontario government could start selling bongs, pipes and rolling papers alongside legal weed next summer, a move he says would be 'pushing small business out.'

Attorney general said government won't just sling pot but 'may also sell accessories that go along with it'

A London headshop owner worries the Ontario government could start selling bongs, pipes and rolling papers when it starts selling weed next summer, a move he says would be "pushing small business out."

The Ontario government gave more detail on its plans for selling and distributing legal marijuana on Wednesday, which included tougher enforcement measures for illegal dispensaries and their employees when the federal government legalizes marijuana next summer. 

As part of the Wednesday announcement, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the Ontario government would sell and distribute marijuana — along with pot "accessories" — through a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

That was confirmed Thursday by Scott Blodgett, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Finance, in an email to CBC News. 

"The new corporation would be selling cannabis-related items, or accessories, and which accessories that involves will be determined at a later date," he wrote. 

'They're taking more away from us'

That worries Joe Chiarella, who owns Smokeless Joe's, a retail store that sells bongs, pipes and vaporizers at two locations in London, Ont.

'They're taking more away from us' 0:52

"I don't agree with it. I don't think it's a good thing and I say that because there's so many of us mom and pot shops," he said. "Nor do we have the deep pockets that the government does to be able to compete with their pricing. We're going to buy 10 pieces? They're going to be 1,000 pieces and get that volume discount." 

"All they're doing by doing this is they're pushing small business out because we're not going to be able to afford to sell at the same price they do." 

'Money to be made'

The idea also bothers Brenden Morrison, who works as a sales representative at Hi-Times in London, one of the oldest 420 shops in the city. 

Morrison said the move would be hypocrisy on the part of authorities, who once raided the downtown London store 20 years ago, seizing thousands of dollars worth of bongs, pipes and other accessories. 

A spokesperson with the Ontario Ministry of Finance was not able to answer a request by CBC News for more detail about whether the OCRC would sell paraphenalia, such as bongs, pipes and rolling papers. 

The province has promised it would open up to 40 stand-alone stores next summer, which would eventually be expanded to include 150 stores across the province by 2020. 

While the province has said sales will include online ordering and the use, purchase and possession of marijuana will be limited to those who are 19 years of age and older, many questions remain about where exactly the stores will be located and whether the stores would be able to fulfil demand. 

Despite repeated raids by police, illegal dispensaries such as the London Relief Centre seem to be doing brisk business. 

While the dispensary declined to speak to CBC News, a visit inside the front door revealed at least six staff members helping about a dozen customers on Thursday with a strong odour of marijuana in the air.  

Naqvi promised Wednesday that the operators of illegal dispensaries could face a maximum $1-million fine and jail time if convicted of illegally selling marijuana, while individual employees could face a $250 fine, if convicted.