Pot shop robberies spur push to end restrictions on window displays

When Elisa Keay works at her cannabis shop in Toronto, the days can feel long and dark — even when the sun is shining.

Gloom comes from the frosted windows of K’s Pot Shop in Leslieville, blocking out the weather and even the people who are about to walk into her shop.

The windows are frosted to comply with regulations requiring minors not to see marijuana, but Keay and others argue that those requirements should be dropped because they make workers feel cut off from their communities and their stores more likely to be targets for robbers Target.

“You start to feel very isolated, like you’re sitting in a box and the world goes by on the street, and you realize how isolated you are,” Key said.

Even more worrying, she said, are curtains that encourage theft because they protect anyone inside and prevent passers-by from noticing criminal activity in progress as they pass by the store.

“Nobody could see what was going on inside,” Keay said.

“I have a lot of colleagues and friends in the industry who have had their stores at gunpoint and have had attacks inside their stores … the opportunity is very real because of those curtains.”

Her employees all carry panic buttons in case they get robbed.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which regulates cannabis retailers in the province, said stores must ensure cannabis products are not visible from the outside of the store.

“Ontario retail cannabis stores are able to determine for themselves how to meet the standards, so there is no need to cover windows or block views from the store,” spokesman Raymond Kahnert said in an email.

To avoid blocking windows, some have built a fence around the entrance that blocks the view into the store, but Keay said building them in tight spaces can be difficult, so loosening restrictions like those implemented in Alberta is preferred .

A “significant increase” in robberies, especially in Calgary, prompted Alberta’s cannabis regulator to allow stores to remove curtains last summer.

Before regulators took action, news reports detailed a series of incidents in which sometimes armed robbers entered stores to steal cash and marijuana, shocking workers.

“Violence and weapons have been used in some commercial robberies and the Alberta Gaming, Alcohol and Cannabis Commission is concerned,” Dave Berry, the regulator’s executive vice president, said in a statement. Safety of staff, customers and responding police.” The change was announced in a letter to stores in August.

Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of the British Columbia Cannabis Retail Council, said she’s not aware of any other province that has relaxed its rules on curtains like Alberta.

However, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulatory Branch (LCRB), which regulates marijuana in British Columbia, removed a rule requiring weed stores to be enclosed with opaque walls, she said.

But Pehota said the relaxation hasn’t sparked change, as stores still have to ensure cannabis products aren’t visible from the outside and are packaged in plain packs that don’t appeal to young people.

“If you don’t have to have opaque windows, if you have a rule that you can’t see any marijuana or marijuana products from the street, and your storefronts are all windows, that’s fine,” she said.

David Haslam, director of communications for BC’s Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General, said the LCRB “understands that some businesses continue to face challenges even though the requirement has been lifted, and is actively working with the cannabis industry and other stakeholders to address this issue.” For public safety.”

Pehota intends to continue pushing regulators to relax curtain and visibility rules, with safety as one of the top motivators.

She said she has heard of at least eight retailers who have recently suffered burglaries, several of which turned violent.

“We’ve had instances where someone ended up tied up and left in their store for a while, but no one knew the poor guy was in there,” she said.

“My concern is that things will get worse before they get better, and I’m concerned that someone will be seriously hurt.”

High Tide Inc., which owns 151 stores in five provinces and has experienced armed robberies, has similar concerns, prompting it to call on Alberta to remove a rule that prohibits canned products from being seen from the outside of its stores.

Now it’s calling on other provinces and the federal government to follow suit with such legislation, which it says will counter the fact that “criminals can run wild without fear of public scrutiny outside the shop”.

“In many cases, these gangs are stealing legal marijuana products with the intent of diverting them into illicit markets where there are no age checks,” Omar Khan, High Tide’s chief communications and public affairs officer, said in an email.

“Applying the new Alberta standards from coast to coast will be a victory for community safety.”

Tara Deschamps, Canadian Press

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