Essex store on main street selling pot to anyone, say customers, while other businesses waiting

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Essex store on main street selling pot to anyone, say customers, while other businesses waiting

A store in Essex is selling marijuana without requiring a prescription, according to customers who say they're buying it for recreational use.

Canadians will be able to legally buy and consume recreational cannabis and cannabis products Oct. 17.

But Hemp Healthy Farmacy appears to be jumping the gun, according to customers who say staff only verify their age before accepting purchases.

"How are they allowed? How does the government — the police departments — allow this stuff if it's [still] illegal [for now]?," said Essex Mayor Ron McDermott.

McDermott said the store has been issued a commercial building permit, but those permits cannot dictate what the business sells. 

He added the store was a topic of discussion at a recent police services board meeting.

"Administration asked the police to get involved and find out more about what they can do or can't do and their hands are, I'll say, pretty well tied because I don't think they have been directed what they should be or shouldn't be doing," he said.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police said he was not aware of the store's alleged activities, but "if there are offences being committed" police will investigate.

"As for the current legislation, nothing has changed," said Const. Jim Root. "At this time, the use of cannabis for recreational purposes remains illegal under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act. It will remain so until the federal government enacts new legislation."

He also said the OPP will "continue to enforce illegal cannabis incidents with a focus on the apprehension of those who produce, import, traffic and use cannabis outside of the parameters of the legislation."

One customer who made a purchase from Hemp Healthy Farmacy Tuesday spoke anonymously with CBC News and said staff never asked her for a medical marijuana card.

"I was in there in a packed store and I didn't hear anybody get asked," she said. "There were two young girls in there and they looked really young, and they asked them for their driver's license to make sure they were 19."

"They didn't take debit or credit. They didn't even punch it in a cash register.... They're just opening a drawer and putting the money in it. I just thought it's strange that it's just cash," the customer said, adding she went into the store to make a purchase for her husband.

Hemp Healthy Farmacy would not to speak with CBC News and staff ordered a reporter to leave the store.

Hydroponics store seeing more demand too

Meanwhile, other businesses in Windsor-Essex are also anticipating the demand for more accessible marijuana.

Urban Greenhouse Hydroponics, which specializes in gardening and hydroponic supplies, says more people are coming in inquiring about how to grow their own pot.

Under the federal government's legislation, people will be allowed to grow — from licensed seed or seedlings — up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use.

"We have seen an increase in the number of people coming in, mostly for the information and trying to find when the date is that they can start growing," said owner James Marcoux, a self-described marijuana activist.

"Some people might want to jump the gun [by starting now], but obviously we're recommending for them to wait until the laws have changed, but people are definitely excited to start," he said.

Marcoux has already expanded the business and has ordered more product to prepare for increased sales. He's also planning to offer workshops and growing lessons.

Other businesses waiting patiently

Melissa Spurr opened the Coffee Pot Lounge on Ottawa Street last October, in anticipation of legalization of recreational pot.

It's a coffee bar and restaurant, which is open to public and offers itself as a "safe place" for medical marijuana users to medicate.

But Spurr wants to be able to make and sell marijuana edibles.

"Just like a restaurant or a bar does, they have a liquor license and they purchase their liquor through the LCBO, we should be allowed to do that with the flour with the marijuana. We should be allowed to bring it in here," she said.

The rules around this are not yet clear. The federal legislation provides for people to make cannabis products at home, and it states there will be rules around the types of cannabis products for sale, including imposing industry-wide standardized serving sizes and potency.

"Maybe we'll introduce 'bring your own' and we can help people make their medicine here. It's something that we are starting to think about," she said, adding she doesn't want too many rules around the amount of pot that can be infused into food and beverages at stores like hers.

Rather, she favours an approach similar to Smart Serve, a mandatory training for alcohol servers in Ontario.

The government should not be able to regulate edibles, because they don't "make jello shots for us," said Spurr.