Colby Cosh: Shedding light on spate of thefts at Calgary pottery stores

Window coverings virtually required by federal law mean criminals don’t have to worry about passers-by spotting a robbery in progress

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Yes, it’s still a bit of a miracle that Canada, a country with a strong streak of orange-colored Protestantism in its DNA, could ignore its heritage long enough to legalize the sale of cannabis. Legalization seems to have taken place 10 years ago; after a few years of epidemic disease and foreign travel restrictions, we may have come to see retail marijuana as a measure of anticipation, a way to cope with isolation and economic collapse that the feds wisely gave us just before we really needed it. And we are less able to see how unusual and distinctive it still is to have an independent cannabis store around the corner, which other countries with the best liberal bona fides still do not appreciate. But the irrational fear of certain demonic molecules still haunts us, as recent reports from Alberta show.

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Calgary is currently plagued by a string of violent cannabis store robberies, recording 29 last year and 13 already as of April 1. Calgary police and retailers agree that there’s about one reason for the madness: federal law that allows because the existence of cannabis stores prohibits them from displaying products – even “cannabis accessories” – d in a way that could cause these things to be seen by a minor.

If you live in any city in Alberta, no matter how small, you know it causes cannabis stores to have blackout coverings or other screens on their exterior windows. Other regulations ensure that cannabis storage will be protected by indoor vaults as secure as Fort Knox – and this interacts with posting rules to make cannabis stores a target for hardened, clueless criminals. They know they can walk into such a store, lock the entrance behind them, and threaten the staff with a gun or a beating until they are presented with enough merchandise and money. It’s not like a teenager, or anyone else passing by, is going to look out the windows and see an armed robbery in progress. Some stores have hired security guards, but that may only serve to put another employee at risk.

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Some stores have hired security guards

Display rules are justified on the grounds that they are exactly the same rules that apply to cigarettes, and for the same reason — to discourage young people from being reminded of the existence of adult pleasures. But, of course, any gas station will sell you smoke: cigarettes aren’t limited to single-product outlets like joints are. Meanwhile, liquor retailers face no rules requiring them to put blackout glazing on exterior windows, and even in Orange-tario grocery stores they can now whip beer and cider to people passing through for Pop-Tarts and Toilet Duck.

Cannabis stores could have clear windows if they were willing to have no visible product anywhere in the store – just a cash register and featureless walls. But other rules mean that the point of sale is the only opportunity for cannabis brands and accessories to distinguish themselves, and our cannabis economy, with mature market segmentation and price discrimination, is still in the process of to create. Weed is not the residual oligopoly that the Canadian tobacco industry has become, nor the giant wad of internationally controlled legacy brands that supply us with alcohol.

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Perhaps the government legalized cannabis with the ultimate intention of making it a tightly controlled, neutral state service for addicts, which tobacco seems to be heading towards. But one of the reasons for legalization was that the demonstrable harms of cannabis are not a fraction of those caused by inherited substances. From a public health perspective, it is almost certain that cannabis should be less restricted than alcohol and tobacco, and could actively substitute for the former.

What’s new in Calgary’s crime spree is that city police are agreeing with retailers that window coverings virtually required by federal law are a problem: a spokesperson for the crime prevention unit Calgary crime described it as “the biggest problem we have”. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission itself also agrees there is a problem – but there is little that either of these parties can do unless the Cannabis Act is amended by the federal government. .

If our Lib-Dem government is interested in protecting young people, it should be observed that most of the people who run these stores, the people who are unnecessarily exposed to violence as an unintended consequence of the legislation, are in their twenties. . In at least one case in Edmonton, one of the perpetrators of an armed robbery in a cannabis store was himself a minor. How the poor fellow even got wind of the existence of marijuana, we can’t imagine.

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