Steven Fry, the owner of more than 35 cannabis stores, calls Hamilton, “Hamsterdam” due to what he calls “a really great culture around cannabis.”
The Hamsterdam name also refers to the nearly 100 illegal pot shops operating in the city at one point. In fact, many are still operating and thriving post-federal legalization of weed.
While Hamilton Ciy Council is still concerned about the “grey market” cannabis stores operating illegally, they appear to be even more concerned with some of the legal ones in-waiting.
There are nearly a dozen provincially-licenced pot shops in Hamilton and more than 50 have submitted applications to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
The Province has already said it will not enact a buffer-zone policy to prevent clustering. Attorney General Doug Downey believes “the open market will naturally limit the number of viable cannabis stores based on consumer demand.”
While some councillors are concerned about the volume of prospective cannabis stores, they appear to be more concerned about the locations.
Ward 8 Coun. John Paul Danko believes Mohawk College students are being targeted. There are four pot shops awaiting approval from the province to open on Upper James — the block parallel to the college on West 5th.
However, there are no rules in place by the Province to prevent cannabis stores from opening near colleges and universities.
Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead, though, believes “it’s no coincidence” that there are two pot applications awaiting approval to open near St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School on Upper Paradise. One of which is 500-metres away.
Could cannabis stores be targeting teens?
“Absolutely not,” said Steven Fry, who opened Hamilton’s first-ever legal weed store, located at The Centre on Barton St.
“Nobody in the legal cannabis game that I’m in would have any need to target high school students. There’s a lot of legislation around children and minors”.
Ontario laws do not permit cannabis stores to open with 150-metre of schools.
The City of Hamilton, meanwhile, argued back in 2018 that the minimum distance from schools, parks, and community centres, should be 300-metres.
Fry says, even if high school students do decide to venture towards a legal cannabis store, they wouldn’t get very far.
“You know you can’t see inside the store and we have somebody stationed at the door to check IDs before you can enter,” continued Fry. “There’s a lot of regulations and red tape around making sure that it doesn’t get into the hands of children.”