On Sept. 8, 2017, Ontario became the first province to reveal its plans to regulate Canadian cannabis, proposing to handle it in a fashion similar to that of tobacco and alcohol.
Under Ontario’s proposed regulations, legal consumers must be 19 or older, consumption in public and at work will be banned, illegal cannabis dispensaries will be shut down, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will open one online cannabis store by July 2018 and then open 150 stand-alone cannabis retail stores by 2020.
“The province is moving forward with a safe and sensible approach to legalization that will ensure we can keep our communities and roads safe, promote public health and harm reduction, and protect Ontario’s young people,” said Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario, in a press release.
According to Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, “When it comes to retail distribution, the LCBO has the expertise, experience and insight to ensure careful control of cannabis, helping us to discourage illicit market activity and see that illegal dispensaries are shut down.”
The LCBO plans to open its online cannabis store by July 2018 and the first 80 standalone stores should be open by July 1, 2019.
While the announcement from Ontario does show a province making progress to regulate Canadian cannabis, not all Canadians are pleased with Ontario’s plan to let the LCBO open and operate the province’s only recreational cannabis stores.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Ontario government has decided to implement a public-sector monopoly for cannabis sales in the province,” wrote the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in a press release. “One of the government’s stated goals in cannabis legalization is to eliminate the underground economy, but shutting out the private sector will only allow the illicit trade to flourish.”
The Cannabis Canada Association, an organization for licensed cannabis producers in Canada, echoed the CFIB’s position.
“We hope that the Province will allow for private retail sales alongside government owned stores. A competitive market model would provide the Province with a predictable, low-risk revenue stream without the taxpayer burdens of upfront capital expenditure exposure and operational risk,” the CCA explained in a statement.