Right now if you want to consume cannabis legally, you need to order it from the Ontario Cannabis Store. Delivery can take a few weeks, and as a result, it does very little to tackle problems with the current, more rapid method of distribution: gangs.

The reality is that cannabis legalization is a war on gangs by hitting them where it hurts: their funding model.

In a city like Brampton that has been grappling with an uptick in gun violence, the last thing city council should do is keep money in the pockets of people who would deal in death and grievous injury with either their product or methods.

Having no cannabis stores at all ensures gangs and black market weed dealers can continue to profit from our city. Given these transactions take place in the black market, there are no courts to defer to if these transactions go awry. In the absence of courts, the primary method of enforcement of the terms of a transaction amongst gangs becomes violence — often through guns. You also end up with turf wars between competing gangs, which results only in more death.

It’s also important to consider that black market cannabis can come laced with impurities or outright toxins. After all, who is regulating the product to ensure it’s safe for consumption? Nobody.

Finally, gangs don’t check ID. Cannabis stores must check ID. Aside from helping drive gangs out of the business of cannabis, we’ll be adding an entire layer of security in Brampton via these stores to ensure children don’t get their hands on cannabis, which is known to hamper cognitive development during their formative years.

Do you want to ban cannabis stores and keep gang violence, funding for illicit guns, and weed being sold to your children?

Or will you approve the retail stores and remove money from gangs, cut away their ability to buy guns, and ensure your children don’t get their hands on marijuana?

That’s the tradeoff and if it sounds dire, it’s because there’s no viable middle ground here. We can discuss where these stores might go and how far they ought to be from a school, but government-run cannabis stores are already the middle ground arrangement that we have come to as a province and a nation.

We can’t have it all as a city.

We can’t ban cannabis stores and tackle the gun violence gripping our city at the same time. Economic reality does not allow it. The best tool our city has to reduce gun violence is the ability to allow cannabis stores.

Politicians have tried prohibition before, with wholesale bans resulting in the emboldening of black markets. All it has brought us is death and misery to cities across North America.

Considering the aforementioned reality, and the gun violence gripping our city right now: don’t be that politician. After all, would it sit well in your heart to know that another gun death could have been prevented if only you voted to approve cannabis stores?

The City of Brampton is currently conducting cannabis consultation. Have your say on the issue by emailing cannabis@brampton.ca or delegating at a special council meeting on January 21, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Correction: This piece was updated on 17 January 2019 to remove reference to fentanyl-laced marijuana, for which there isn’t solid enough evidence at this time.

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