Community reactions to legal cannabis storefronts

From downtown Toronto to Scarborough, there is a divide between legal cannabis storefronts and "backyard dealers"

The Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop has profited greatlyu ever since the Hunny Pot opened across the street on April 1,2019
Business has been booming for the Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop on Queen Street West since the Hunny Pot opened across the street on April 1, 2019 Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer

Business has been booming at the Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop since the Hunny Pot opened across the street on Queen Street West.

With lines wrapping around the corner, the Friendly Stranger has been making friends with customers in the neighbour’s lineup.

Store manager Christine Sommerville has been working for the Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop for almost a year.

Christine Sommerville smokes for recreation and has been working at the Friendly Stranger for almost year. (Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer)

“With the Hunny Pot, Day Two, it has definitely been busier,” said Christine Somerville, a supervisor at the Friendly Stranger. “It is exciting for all of us.”

Somerville said on April 1, when the Hunny Pot cannabis storefront opened, they have been handing out 15 per cent coupons to the customers in the line.

The Friendly Stranger has been open for 25 years and is owned by James Jesty.

At the Friendly Stranger they sell: papers and flavoured papers, lighters, torches, dab rigs, many bongs, vaporizers (tabletop and handheld), pipes (wood, glass, metal, stone, crystal), rolling trays, storage containers, humidors, cookbooks for edibles and books of how to make your own edibles. They have merchandise like bags and T-shirts.

Scented papers and bongs aren't the only products at the Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop on Queen Street.

The Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop sells a wide range of products from backpacks to clothing and bongs. (Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer)

In North York, where there is no legal cannabis store, the lack of a government-approved outlet isn’t bothering some people who already rely on the black market for their cannabis products, or on dealers.  

“I think it wouldn’t make a huge difference having one,” said Kushiah Henry-Daniels, 18.  “I’m someone that’s in and around the community and you could honestly find a plug [dealer] on every main intersection.”

According to the high school student, there are advantages to the illegal market.

“Unlike a dispensary, a plug may let you off when you’re short on money or give you more supply on the side,” he explained.

The black market still holds its own even while the legal retailers beat them by 50 per cent on prices.  Another reason is there are no limits within the black market, and overall it is just more convenient business.

Brandon Andrew, 24, resides in central Scarborough and depends a lot more on a dealer than on a a dispensary. He likes the unlimited products and access at reduced prices.

“In Scarborough, we never really rely on a dispensary. At times I would go ‘Yes’ and pick up [at a dispensary], but having a dealer is more efficient and easy,”  Andrew said.

In January 2019, the Ontario government gave out 25 cannabis retail licenses in a lottery-type fashion to a wide range of potential business owners and entrepreneurs.

Whether consumers go to legal cannabis storefronts such as the Hunny Pot or keep purchasing cannabis from a dealer, there are still nearly two dozen illegal cannabis storefronts operating that Toronto Police are currently investigating.

According to a news release issued on April 17, Toronto police are investigating 21 suspected illegal cannabis storefronts. Alleged suspects can face fines up to $250,000 or imprisonment up to two years and they are ineligible to apply for a legal cannabis retail license.

Despite the lack of legal government-sanctioned cannabis storefronts open and ready for business, Torontonians are still able to get their cannabis.

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Posted: Apr 22 2019 10:58 pm
Filed under: News