Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government has released its plan for regulating the sale of weed in the province and frankly it’s a lot better than what the Liberals were planning.
We say this with a grain of salt, because we’re still awaiting the text of the actual bill.But based on the PC’s announcement yesterday, the new plan will allow for a free market in Ontario.
The main highlights of the plan are:
- The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp. will be the wholesale provider of weed in the province
- Weed will be sold in private stores, which will open in April 2019
- There will be no cap on the number of private weed dispensaries, however retail operators will limited on how many stores they can operate
- Municipalities can opt out of having a retail store
- Federally licensed producers (Aurora, Canopy, Tilray etc) will be limited to having one retail location in the province
- Public consumption will align with the Smoke Free Ontario Act, meaning people will be able to consume cannabis where they can consume tobacco
- Black market dispensaries need to be shut down by Oct. 17 or forgo any chance of making it into the legal market
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will oversee the licensing of retail stores
This plan is far more likely to meet the demand of Canada’s most populous province, while stomping out the black market. It also limits what could have been an LP monopoly on retail weed sales.
Comparatively, the Liberals favoured a provincial monopoly on retail, controlled by the LCBO. They planned to open 40 stores in 2018, with a grand total of 150 by 2020. That’s laughable when you consider there are probably 80 dispensaries currently operating in Toronto alone. It also would have completely cut out mom and pop dispensaries‚ including people with decades of experience with cannabis, in favour of the provincial monopoly. Plus, the province would have had to incur all the operating costs.
The Liberals also wanted to completely ban public consumption of cannabis, meaning you could only consume it a “private dwelling.” Disobeying that rule would mean a fine of $1,000 for a first offence or up to $5,000 for subsequent offense. (For perspective, consuming liquor in public in Ontario comes with a $100 fine.)
That rule meant homeless people would have nowhere to consume cannabis, nor would people who live in public housing, nor would many renters, since landlords and condo boards are gearing up to fight cannabis consumption on their properties. Beyond that, the ban on public consumption could potentially hurt future cannabis tourism businesses. With the PC plan, the door is open to eventually regulate weed lounges and other spaces where people can legally consume weed.
The Liberals also created a fine for youth caught with weed, even though the federal government said youth found with less than 5 grams won’t be charged criminally.
Last year, VICE broke a story that showed the Liberal government ignored the advice of its own Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in rolling out its strict plan.
There are still lots of questions about the details of the new bill, including how many stores will open in April, what the store limit will be for operators, how many municipalities will opt out retail sales, and whether or not people with criminal records will be able to jump into the legal regime.
But on the face of it, Ford’s plan is much more measured than what the Liberals proposed. The man knows how to sell weed.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
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