City pot shop shuts doors, shifts sales to delivery

Just months before Ontario begins selling recreational marijuana, an illegal London pot shop has closed its storefront and moved to a delivery-only service, a move industry experts predict will become increasingly common.

Tasty Budd’s has closed its Wharncliffe Road dispensary — a location police have raided twice since 2016 — but will continue to sell cannabis products to registered clients through a same-day delivery service under the name TMT Compassion - lfpress.com.

Moving from a brick-and-mortar operation to a delivery-only model decreases the risk of arrest for operators, said Jenna Valleriani, a post-doctoral student at the University of British Columbia and member of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

“That’s been a trend that’s been happening over the past two years,” Valleriani, who studies Canada’s marijuana market, said of the move. “It’s more discreet.”

More dispensaries will follow suit before summer, she predicts, when the Liberal government plans to legalize recreational pot.

In London, the closing of Tasty Budd’s leaves four storefront pot shops operating in the city, including one that sells cannabis to anyone over 19, regardless of whether they have a medical marijuana licence, as required by the others.

Police cautioned this week that pot dispensaries are still illegal.

“The law has not changed, and until it does, police will continue to enforce the laws with respect to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the illegal trafficking of marijuana,” Const Sandasha Bough said.

In Ontario, cannabis products will only be legally sold at LCBO-run stores and through an online service beginning in July. London will get at least one stand-alone store when the first 40 open. The number of dispensaries will expand to 150 provincewide by 2020.

Critics say the government system won’t be able to handle the surging demand for recreational and medicinal cannabis.

“What happens when you don’t have enough provincially owned retail locations and do have a burgeoning online economy that you’ve created through your own overregulation?” said Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada, a national trade association that represents dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses.

There will still be a demand for illegal dispensaries and delivery services because they offer products like edibles and strains of cannabis that the government-run stores won’t carry, Dawkins said.

Nobody from TMT Compassion responded to a request for comment, but the Free Press obtained an email sent to former Tasty Budd customers outlining how the delivery service works.

Orders are placed online through a password-protected website. An $8 dollar delivery fee is charged for orders under $75 within London, while deliveries outside the city are subject to an additional cost, the email said.

Read also more news of London on our site.

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