City of Ottawa releases survey on retail cannabis stores. Photo: CC, Wikicommons, Wladyslaw.
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OCS sucks, bring back the good stuff

Ontario municipalities have until January 2019 to decide whether they want to allow retail cannabis stores inside their boundaries. The City of Ottawa released a survey on Oct. 25, giving residents the opportunity to weigh in until Nov. 7, the results of which will be taken into consideration by City Council.

The only legal option of obtaining cannabis, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), has been inundated with complaints, leading many dispensaries to reopen illegally as OCS struggles to meet demands. Private retail stores must wait until April for the province to develop a retail framework, but many dispensaries are jumping the gun and risk being barred from the legal market.

Although online shopping might be all the craze with the kids these days, cannabis stores should be allowed within Ottawa’s boundaries. Through opening online shopping instead of retail stores first, (especially when Canada Post is on a rotating strike) Ontario is putting the cart before the horse. People need to be able to see the product they intend to purchase, not wait five days for delivery.

When the LCBO was established in 1927, we didn’t have people send away for their alcohol by mail and wait five to ten business days for it to arrive.  I argue that fully developing the framework for physical stores, although a tedious process, is a lot safer than shutting down dispensaries and leaving people to turn to their local alleyway dealer. He’s gross and perpetually smells of Cheetos.  

Having safe, accessible, brick-and-mortar stores also might help shift some of the stigma surrounding this new legislation. Many are still uncertain as to what this change means for Canada, and having a clean, bright, physical store might help clear up some of the confusion. First-time users would be able to go into the store and ask questions from experts on the product, instead of guessing online and waiting for delivery. Think of all the educational pamphlets Ontario could make!

Many are criticizing the prospect of physical stores, with questions on the survey going so far as to ask if we believe it will increase crime in an area, or smell. However, Ottawa police estimate that there were about 30 dispensaries before they forced them to shut down. Whether City Council wants to admit it or not, retail cannabis stores have existed within Ottawa’s boundaries for a few years now. Any associated uptick in break-ins, or complaints of smell, would already be documented by the City. Not to mention that asking individuals for their perception on crime increases and smell is fed by bias, and therefore does not provide solid input for the City’s decision making.

Another concern that’s been raised is our proximity to Gatineau. Quebec’s new provincial government has promised to raise the age of consumption from 18 to 21. Concerns that young people from Gatineau will cross provincial lines to buy cannabis have been raised. Listen, if someone from Gatineau wants to reverse the trip all of us made first-year, I’m all for it. It’s about time we offer our neighbours to the east something in return.