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Ontario will only sell legal weed online at first

The province wants privately run storefronts to open by April 2019.
via VICE News

Ontarians will only be able to buy recreational cannabis online once the legal market opens up this October, as the province won’t open storefronts until next spring, the province announced on Monday.

It was the first time new Progressive Conservative government officially acknowledged that it would implement a private retail storefront model, doing away with the previous Liberal plan for an exclusive government monopoly over the sales.


Instead of opening its own shops, the Ontario Cannabis Store, a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, will oversee online sales to start as well as wholesale distribution in the nation’s most populous province.

“With this online channel, Ontario will be meet the federal obligation that provinces be ready for retail sales for the start of legalization,” finance minister Victor Fedeli told reporters. The government “will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” he continued.

The government will craft new legislation regarding the private storefronts that, if passed, would come into effect on April 1, 2019. In the meantime, the government will also conduct consultations on the private retail model, and look to other similar markets that will be open by October, including regimes being set up by Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Fedeli had a harsh warning for the hundreds of illegal cannabis dispensaries that have been operating across the province for years: “Stop,” he pleaded.

“We will have zero tolerance for any retailers who continue to sell cannabis illegally,” Fedeli said, vowing to impose steep fines for those who continued violating the rules.

A number of licensed cannabis producers have said they would be ready to open up storefronts on October 17th if given the chance.

“We started preparing for this immediately after the change in government … lining up locations and leases,” Cam Battley, chief corporate officer at Aurora, one of the largest legal cannabis companies in the world, told VICE News in a phone interview last month.

While a number of reports suggested that Ontario could issue up to 500 cannabis business licenses, the ministers did not address exact numbers during the press conference.

Plans similar to the revised Ontario privatized model are already being put into practice in other provinces, which are gearing up to have their storefronts operational by the October 17th deadline.