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Ontario Shocker: Province to Restrict Legal Cannabis Sales to 150 Government-Run Stores and One Website

September 8, 2017

One of the great questions leading up to Canada’s 2018 legalization of adult-use cannabis is how individual provinces will handle their Trudeau-given duties to hammer out details of the newly legal plant’s distribution and sale.

“Online sales will begin next July.”

Today, Ontario gave us a shocking example of what such provincial hammering might look like, unveiling a plan that would restrict sales of legal cannabis in the province to 150 government-run stores and a government-run website—a move that would completely outlaw the province’s thriving, beloved, and, yes, illegal independent dispensaries.


The Ontario Proposition: Details and Feedback from the Scene

Other details of the plan, announced today at a joint press conference held by Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Health Minister Eric Hoskins, and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in Queen’s Park: the aforementioned 150 government-run cannabis stores will be overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and sales of legal adult-use cannabis will be restricted to those 19 and above (the same as liquor).

“There will be 80 LCBO weed stores in place across the province by July 1, 2019 and another 70 by 2020,” reports the Toronto Star. “Online sales will begin next July.”

Some backstory and speculation: This summer, Ontario conducted an as-vast-as-possible survey of its citizens, seeking their opinions on cannabis, to help steer the province’s official cannabis guidelines. “[The survey will carry] lots of weight,” Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told the CBC in July. “It’s important from our perspective to hear directly from Ontarians.”


Torontonians Love Their Dispensaries. Why Is Mayor Tory Dead Set Against Them?

The results of this Ontario survey are still being digested, but in a Forum Research survey conducted in April 2016, 52% of Ontario respondents expressed the opinion that the best place to sell legal cannabis would be dedicated cannabis dispensaries. More recently, a survey conducted by Nanos Research in July 2018 found that 55% of Ontario residents preferred cannabis be sold by licensed private retailers rather than province-run liquor stores.

Clearly, Ontarions love their non-LCBO cannabis dispensaries—so why is the government, which made so much noise about valuing citizens’ input, killing them dead? Perhaps the dream is to incorporate everything people love about independent dispensaries into the forthcoming government shops. Or maybe it’s just a middle-finger to the illegal dispensary scene and any and all who appreciate it.

Stay tuned for on-the-ground reporting from Toronto.

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Dave Schmader

Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader

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  • Fun Please

    All power to the government – what could go wrong?

    • Adrian James Young

      they will spay chemicals all over the weed that’s what. the government should stay out of sales and leave it to people with a real passion for it.

  • Putting the LCBO in charge of selling cannabis was the Liberal government’s way of assuaging the union representing the LCBO staff at the bargaining table and Premier Wynne’s insatiable need for arbitrary control and the attempt at financial enrichment for Liberals and their associates, the profits will never be for the populace of the province even though it is rightfully their money.I say attempt because there is not going to be a stampede to the liquor stores,it will be a novelty for a while but ultimately buyers will continue to do what they have all along,supporting their local dealer.
    The fact that most people don’t support cannabis sales at the stand-alone CCBO’s means nothing to this government,they do whatever they wish.There’s an election coming up,they deserve to be tossed out of office but unfortunately I doubt they will lose,they just bought the votes of public servants and university students and have been buying votes all over the province handing out money.They’ve probably calculated how to pay for all the election goodies with the projected sales of cannabis.Of course they’d be wrong.Again.

    • Thedude Man

      Middle *finger.

      This is a bad idea. These people do NOT know about good cannabis

      • On the contrary,they know very well what good cannabis is and will make sure that it isn’t,they’ve made that abundantly clear.Cannabis sold by the Wynne Liberal cabal will be grossly overpriced and overtaxed garbage.People will try it once and go back to what they were doing before,patronizing the local dealers,growing their own or ordering online out of province.

    • emernel

      I agree with you completely, the illegal sale of pot will continue, the government cannot be trusted at all.

  • Rob Gilchrist

    This is a real fuck up. The LCBO stores should simply stay as LCBO. And, be sure of this, I live in a small town. Do you think I’ll be able to buy my mj from this small store? HELL NO! So, here’s what I’ll continue to do and have done for 20 years; I’ll continue to buy from my guy. I have sampled all the “big growers” product, no I’m not at all impressed. Some have that mouldy smell, and most suppliers deliver powdery crap that is impossible to roll and burn hot in my vape. And, come on, what about competition/ there will be zero competition.
    I am a 78 year old with chronic pain for over 30 years and I rely on mj as part of my pain management. My MD refuses to give me a prescription for it, so my “guy” will continue to be my source. This is a bloody disappointment on a grand scale. Here we are in a supposed progressive country, and we are moving back to the 60s in distributing mj. Next, we’ll be needing special I.D. To purchase the damn stuff.
    I am thoroughly pissed off and have expressed my feelings to Premier Wynn. I encourage other interested party’s to do the same.

  • Bob Mann

    Well that should come as a big relief to the “private” growers.

  • TorontosaurusEx

    They (the government) are so mired in their own HUBRIS.
    They totally believe and sell this stupid idea as a best practice.
    They are about to be “Hoisted on their own Petard “!

    Who is behind this move ? Look at the players and follow the money.
    Wynne, and her cronies are also secret stakeholders in all of this grand scheme.
    They have a vested interest in supporting their campaign contributors, namely
    the LP’s (Licensed Producers) and their own personal stock investments in this new
    frontier of Green Revenue.
    Ex-Politicians, Ex-Police Chiefs, Ex-Celebrities… all eagerly awaiting to cash in.

    By severely restricting this emerging market from its natural growth progression,
    they will unknowingly set the stage for their defeat.
    The pushback will be sudden and it will be powerful.
    Cottage industry, the same ones that have fought for Cannabis legitimacy for decades,
    are not about to sit by silent and take it up their @$$.
    They are in a position to slash the price structure by HALF… or maybe even down to third
    of current prices per gram.
    Let us then see how these new cost-intensive brick and mortar government regulated locations
    last before they become the next big government folly not unlike McGuinty’s failed Hydro Plant
    ventures…remember those days ?

    Support your local Craft Cannabis Growers, and boycott these idiots and their insatiable greed.
    This is a plant of healing and health. It is not a means to obtain big profits by restricting access to
    an open and fair market. Top quality products are then more increasingly available to an already
    access-compromized medicinal-needs market. The recreational market is now in process of being
    hijacked by Corporates…that rely on green graduates from Universities to grow their crops in sterile
    labs with chemical agents…with periodic recalls because of contaminants.

    They continue to insult our intelligence with their oblivious ineptitude.
    Watch what happens to their smugness and over-confidence.
    Overgrow the government. Pass it on.


  • Jason B

    Personally happy with decision, so long as progressing towards legalization and wide/fair availability of good marijuana. Illegal dispensaries should not be surprised; unless complacent regarding laws and the not yet fully planned governance.

    Main concern is they allow unfettered sale of all marijuana with no tampering of the potency, breeding or reasonable allowance to own/hold.

    If it’s not good enough, will simply return to the illegal market. Don’t give a rats ass about poloticians, angles, money.

  • Adrian James Young

    so we all have seen the what the government has done to tobacco. there is no way i will buy weed from them.

  • Contrarian

    The Ontario Govt’s move is wrong on so many levels. This cannabis oligarchy of collusion among politicians, big-corp weed farms and insider investors is disgusting in its betrayal of citizens’ expectations and deep desire for evidence of social change and justice — how many in the Liberal Party leadership and their ranks own shares — incl. arms length, in big-corp weed? — the number will shock us I’m sure. These corporate statists have just embezzled/confiscated a multi-billion $, thriving, exciting industry — and said f#*ck you to a very large community economy of master growers, dispensaries, suppliers and their loyal clients and patients. Their rationale for control is weak and unsubstantiated by true research and findings.

    True cannabis legalization, at the very least, should follow the happy vintner analogy – buy land, grow grapes, make wine, sell onsite, online, export and market, if you wish, through whatever gov regulated policies and channels exist. Boycott the Cannabis Control of Ontario – send them and the Wynne cabal packing.

  • Contrarian