Canada: Ontario divided on private cannabis retail model

Twitter icon

The City of Toronto and much of Ontario is bracing for more complications with only 70 days left before cannabis is set to be legal across Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are sending strong signals that legal cannabis will be sold by private retailers rather than being sold by the Ontario Cannabis Store, as originally decided by the Ontario Liberal government.

The OCS initially planned to open 40 retail shops across Ontario, with 150 planned to be opened by the end of 2020. The locations were to be determined by the province with input from municipalities.

The recent announcement from the Premier and Conservative government is a game-changer not only for Ontario but for private retailers across Canada. This announcement has potentially doubled the customer base for private retailers with access now to 2.5 million adults who might purchase cannabis when it’s legal later on October 17.

Research suggests that the private model will be popular with cannabis users even if it is not the preference of the broader public. “Among adult residents of the GTA, more than half would prefer a wholly government-owned model, with three in 10 open to a mixed system, and 15 per cent preferring a fully privatized system,” according to the Toronto Star.

While many are worried about rolling out the new system only months before legalization, others feel that it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as many are making it out to be.

“No one that uses and enjoys cannabis currently has any problem gaining access to it. So nothing is going to change for the people that use this product. The only thing that is going to change is where they access it,” said Jack Lloyd, a Toronto-based lawyer who deals with cannabis cases.

Lloyd recently told CBC News that privatization is a “more cost-effective plan for the province”. “If their goal is to eradicate the black market, they should simply license it, and give it rules for its operation,” he said. “I guarantee all of the currently operating dispensaries would comply with any rules... so long as they have a place in the industry.”

That is if these businesses are welcome to operate at all. The province is still divided on having retailers within their own communities. In the GTA, currently nine in 10 cannabis users support having a retailer in their community whereas only four in 10 non-users would be okay with having a retailer nearby.

The provincial and municipal governments will need to monitor communities carefully to avoid conflict with residents who are trying hard to keep retailers out of their neighborhoods. Lloyd however does not believe that this new model should cost the province any more in policing costs or other expenses related to legalization.

e-mail icon Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Reddit icon
Rate this article: 
Regional Marijuana News: