WINNIPEG -- With high COVID-19 case counts, many in Manitoba are asking why certain businesses are still open – including liquor and cannabis stores.

On Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health official, said taking liquor stores and cannabis stores off the list of the essential services and shutting them down could cause more harm than good.

“Unintended consequences of not allowing access to these types of products,” Roussin said.

For more than 40 years, Mitch Bourbonniere, a community outreach worker, has been working with those who are impacted by mental health and addiction. He says those untended consequences can be physical, emotional, and psychological withdrawals, and it could be life-threatening.

“Addiction has no demographic. Anyone and everyone can be afflicted by addiction in the wrong circumstance,” he said.

Addiction is an illness, he said, that causes intense suffering usually brought on by trauma. If the stores are closed, people are most likely to turn to more dangerous substances.

“Whether it is home brew, whether it is crack, whether it is meth, prescription drugs, anything they can get their hands on, if they can’t get a safe, viable, government-run product,” Bourbonniere said.

Bourbonniere also says closing stores opens the door for organized crime to take over the sales.

“People are absolutely going to get desperate and go to organized crime, they are going to go to the street, they are going to go to gangs,” said Bourbonniere.