Many Toronto pot users still prefer illegal shops. Here’s why

Visiting one of the handful of legal cannabis retailers in downtown Toronto didn’t even cross Jesse Cree’s mind when he decided to spend $50 to replenish his depleted baggie of pot.

This week he went straight to the Harbord St. location of Cannabis and Fine Edibles (CAFE), an illicit operation that has been his chief supplier of pot for about a year now.

“It’s more of a familiarity thing for me,” Cree said of the motivation behind him favouring CAFE. “It’s the place I rely on to get my weed.”

Experts say buyers’ continued reliance on illegal operations is a strong signal of their preference for those retailers and their products, and a direct knock on the inferior quality and higher prices found at licensed sellers.

Prior to legalization last October, there were more than 90 illegal cannabis storefronts in Toronto, dwindling to 36 soon after legalization. Now fewer than 10 remain, city officials confirmed Wednesday.

CAFE’s four Toronto locations have been a target of the city’s clampdown since November, said city spokesperson Lyne Kyle, adding that “since November we’ve issued over 70 charges, not including the ones that were made last week. We’ve barred entry a number of times and they have reopened.”

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