Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Carmela Fragomeni
Page: A3


The Ontario government's move to distribute and sell marijuana in
LCBO-type stores when it becomes legal - and to shut down illegal pot
shops - has stunned Hamilton's pot shop owners, says Conrad Floyd, of
the Hamilton Village Dispensary collective.

"Hamilton has 30 shops ... We have created this entire industry and
now the government is going to take it over," he said.

"Everybody is just kind of shell-shocked."

Floyd argues that not only is the private businessman and entrepreneur
losing out, but so is the city when it comes to taxes collected at the
governmentrun stores.

"The tax money (generated by pot stores) needs to go back to Hamilton,
not the province."

It's easy to see why the shop owners are upset, although others
contacted by The Spectator did not wish to comment.

As for the customers' view, it was divided.

Weekend business was brisk at the Wellness Clinic Dispensary on King
Street East, and at the Blu Ox on George Street, two of the shops
visited on Saturday.

Wellness dispensary customer Marvin Isaac said, "I prefer it be
mandated by the government. It's another way to find taxes."

And when it comes to quality control, "it's more important that it's
controlled by one entity … I honestly think the government is on the
right track."

But customer Brandon Consoli said he's concerned the government will
add additives to the pot sold, that it won't keep it natural.

He's not completely opposed to government-run shops, but feels "it
would be nice if we could have mom-and-pop shops as well. Some of
those places have more edibles."

Other customers voiced concern that the price will go up when the
government takes over the industry, and that this will push customers
into the black market.

At the Blu Ox, customer Matthew Gurica, like some of the others,
doesn't think it's fair that the government takes over all of it.

"There's people who feel loyal to the little guys. The marijuana
industry will stay underground if they don't give anything for the
little guy. (Right now) it's a neat little community thing. Hamilton's
got a neat character for this."

Floyd, with the Village Dispensary on King Street East, said with
Hamilton having 30 shops alone - and the province planning for 150 -
that he doesn't think the government stores will meet the demand.

He also points out that the province could still control the
marketplace without having to own the stores.

Floyd also argues it's obvious from the way LCBO stores are run and
all their part-time workers that the private pot shop operators give
better benefits and wages than the government-run ones will. His own
company, he says, pays its bud-tenders $25 per hour.

He favours the Colorado model of pot selling. "Look at all the tax
money the state has collected from private dispensaries. (The
provincial government) is missing the boat here. They could be
collecting the same amount of taxes without having to run stores and
employ people."
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