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The Ontario Proposition: Details and Feedback from the Scene

September 8, 2017
Legislative Assembly of Ontario situated in Queens Park - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Ontario government today announced that recreational marijuana will be sold only at dozens of province-run stores and through a province-run web site after the federal government passes legislation legalizing recreational cannabis next July.

The province also announced that the sale of marijuana will be restricted to those 19 years and older (a year above the minimum age recommended by the federal government’s cannabis task force) and that the consumption of marijuana will not be legal anywhere but in private residences.

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This makes Ontario the first province to establish a plan to manage the sale and distribution of cannabis—a task that has been delegated to the provinces by the federal government.

Forty cannabis stores will be up and running when recreational marijuana becomes legal across the country next July.

During today’s press conference, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi also said the government is committed to shutting down the dozens of dispensaries currently operating in the province illegally. “Dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal under the new model,” said Naqvi. “They will be shut down. If you are operating a dispensary, you are now on notice.”

He said provincial officials will meet with municipalities and law enforcement officials to create a plan of attack.

“Dispensaries are at a crossroads in Ontario with many storefronts choosing to shut down,” Lisa Campbell, of the Toronto-based Cannabis Friendly Business Association, said in response to today’s announcement. “There will be a long battle in the coming years ahead, which will be fought in courts. We have been fighting the government retail model for two years now, but the writing was on the wall.”

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Forty cannabis stores will be up and running when recreational marijuana becomes legal across the country next July, Sousa said, with another 40 opening within the next twelve months. He said he expects 150 marijuana stories to be operating in the province by the end of 2020. (For comparison, Ontario is home to 651 liquor stores.)

Pricing and taxation have yet to be determined, but Sousa said the price of cannabis in the stores will be low enough to discourage consumers from buying it on the black market.

“Currently the LCBO is the largest buyer of wine globally, which means they could easily be the largest buyer of weed in the near future,” said Campbell. “This has huge implications internationally as we are currently negotiating NAFTA. Having a government monopoly on distribution hopefully means stronger trade negotiations for cannabis. Ontario and California are trade partners, so potential for future LCBO import could be enormous.”

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Though the province is restricting consumption of recreational marijuana to private residences, it has not ruled out allowing it to be consumed elsewhere in the future. Sousa said the government could look at that possibility down the road.

In coming up with its new policy, Naqvi said, the province looked at the American states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Based on those observations, he said, he believes the province has come up with a “safe and sensible framework.” “The experience of those states has shown us that it’s better to start off with strong controls and re-evaluate later,” added Sousa. He added that the province’s goal is to “supplant the illicit market.”

“While it’s easy to see the negative there are many future possibilities,” said Campbell, “including licensing cannabis use in bars, lounges and restaurants once the federal government sorts out the final details.”

Randi Druzin's Bio Image

Randi Druzin

Randi Druzin is an author and journalist in Toronto. She has worked at several major media outlets, including the National Post and the CBC, and has written for dozens of publications, such as The New York Times, Time magazine, ESPN The Magazine, and The Globe and Mail.

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  • Turner Kayston

    So basically, all those who choose to ‘recreate’ with an infinitely less harmful substance (a herb, not a drug) to drugs, such as alcohol or even tobacco (while being in the province of Ontario), must imprison themselves to their residences… and this is called, legalization? pseudo-legalization perhaps? prohibition 2.0-beta, no doubt.

    Looking at this from an agnostic point of view, then what about subjecting your neighbors to the smoke? After all, it’s now the law to do so… >=)

    The whole point of not drinking in public is because alcohol is a psychomimetic (recreational only) drug, it causes people to lose control, to get violent and aggressive. That’s why we don’t allow it in just any public space.

    It’s all about control and a money grab from the public, through pseudo-harms and fabricated crimes.

    Alcohol:

    We use it and abuse it, to recreate, desecrate, defecate and procreate, often unskilled and unwilled. A non-medicinal, cytotoxic, neurotoxic and carcinogenic (recreational only) hard, drug; a poison in need, is a poison indeed.

    Acetaldehyde (a close relative of formaldehyde) is a poisonous byproduct of its prevailing, inebriating molecular constituent. Once metabolized, it becomes even more toxic than it’s parent, alcohol.

    Alcohol causes brain damage and at least 7 types of known cancers and ~ 140 other health and social harms, none of which are attributed to Cannabis – only correlated (but non-causative) through sophistry, not holistic or any realistic science.

    Just my $0.02.

    • Wayne

      Well said, just another socialist program to grab $ in an already broken system.
      Welcome to CANASTAN!

  • Jo-Ann Claessen

    So the Ontario government has alcohol, beer, gambling which they make the profits from. Now they want Cannabis as well. Billions of dollars in profit like liquor, beer and our gambling habits. This makes me sick. As a holder of a medical card the Cannabis sold at the LP are not nearly as potent as the varieties available at the dispensaries.

    So they will put the “illegal” dispensaries out of business and then jack up the prices once they have the monopoly. Sounds like bullying to me.

    It’s time for the people of Ontario to stand up and say oh hell no.

    • Hulakai

      Agreed, except the part about potency from LPs. That’s a myth…or maybe you need to find a new LP. Tilray released a strain recently that is close (close….not the highest) to the highest THC content ever seen at Cannabis Cup and other events (over 30%). Do you really need something higher than 30%? Seriously?

      • Jo-Ann Claessen

        No that is amazing levels. Maybe I do need to find a new LP.

  • Hulakai

    The govt did exactly what we all thought they’d do. The question is, are we all capable of looking at this as ‘glass half full’ or are we going to keep pushing and pushing until the whole thing becomes such a PIA to them that they get even MORE restrictive. I’ve been so pissed at the dispensaries that have been making gobs of money over the last year or two because they’ve been poking the bear and jeopardizing the whole legalization plan. Now we see the results. The govt has decided to go with very restrictive rules (to start at least) because they’re not going to let the dispensaries ‘win’. They can’t let them win, it would be too embarrassing.

    I blame everyone who opened a shop way too soon so that they could get rich and thumb their nose at the cops and the govt. If they hadn’t tried to jump the gun and everyone had just stayed patient, maybe the govt wouldn’t have been backed into a corner and forced to crack down so hard.

    When you FINALLY have legalization on the doorstep, why keep poking the bear? Why not be patient and discrete until the chains are removed. Now they’re only going to be partially removed. So a big thanks to all the money-hungry dispensary douchebags that couldn’t wait a few more months after DECADES of fighting for legalization. Thanks for nothing. Now you’re screwed and we all have to pay more and drive farther to find a ‘store’.

  • BKristopher

    And Union will train the staff…
    Union bullshit… you have to be user to give right advice and recommendation to people,
    There is not real and trustful info written what and how You use all the different forms of Cannabis available.
    People working in Dispensaries not necessary have the knowledge….except few

    And there come the price…??? very important
    Pricing and taxation have yet to be determined, but Sousa said the price of cannabis in the stores will be low enough to discourage consumers from buying it on the black market.
    Haha..do you believe in it !!!

    Why you don’t leave some private dispensaries so we have a choice and competition

    One good thing from it is the Quality of the product…..how they will control it is another question?

    And there come question what will be available in government run stores ?
    If there is no competition, no free market, no choice….so buy what we offer or go away
    He added that the province’s goal is to “supplant the illicit market. – they do not give choice to get legal for anybody by giving them possibility to get licence.

    It will be mess as is

    Looking at the Government work there always one main goal…how to take the money from our pockets so They can have rise every year.