Ontario cannabis regime in political crosshairs
The province’s Liberal government is preparing to keep pot sales on a relatively tight leash, while Progressive Conservatives favour more of a privatized approach. Meanwhile, a provincial election is scheduled to be held on or before June 7
Ontario’s newly branded cannabis retail stores haven’t started to sell marijuana yet, but they are already in the political crosshairs, and the burgeoning cannabis industry may be just fine with that.
“I don’t like monopolies,” Ford told Ottawa’s CFRA radio station. “I don’t like government being involved in something that the private sector can handle.”
“That being said, the crown model currently being rolled out is proceeding well and our members stand ready to work with whomever forms the next provincial government to design a system that keeps profits out of the hands of organized crime and cannabis away from kids,” said Rewak, whose group represents licensed medical marijuana producers.
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, and it is poised to be its biggest market for legalized cannabis. The province’s Liberal government, though, is preparing to keep pot sales on a relatively tight leash.
Under the current plan, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a Crown corporation, has been tapped to manage the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana in the province, with plans for brick-and-mortar stores and an online sales channel. Last week, the brand name of Ontario’s cannabis agency was unveiled: The Ontario Cannabis Store.
Cannabis companies have argued in the past for other options. In response to Ontario’s announcement of its retail plan for cannabis, Smiths Falls, Ont.-based Canopy Growth Corp. said in September 2017 that “we encourage the government to consider allowing existing licensed producers to continue their e-commerce sales if this can allow for a more cost-effective, expeditious, and varied sales model for Ontarians.”
But Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday that her Liberal government had taken a lot of time to develop a distribution plan for cannabis, and that there would be a “recklessness” to doing what Ford had suggested.
“I think that a lot of parents would have concern about cannabis being available beside candy bars in corner stores,” Wynne said. “As a grandmother, I’d be worried about that. It seems reckless to me.”
“(Ford’s) already acting like he’s premier, but he is spouting off about privatizing the sale of alcohol and cannabis, without giving any thought to the consequences,” OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas said in a release. “His superficial grasp of the issues proves he’s all tip and no iceberg.”
Regardless, there is interest in the industry for a looser retail model in Ontario.
“We strongly support the privatized retail distribution model,” said Derek Ogden, president of Ottawa-based National Access Cannabis Corp., which has a chain of cannabis clinics across Canada. “We think it’s the best model overall to pull people from the black market into the legal regulated market, so we’re strongly in favour of the comments (by Ford).”
Polls have suggested that the Progressive Conservatives have a shot at winning this June’s Ontario election, which would give Ford an opportunity to implement his preferred policies.
And Ogden pointed to the network of licensed producers as an example of privatization in action, albeit under the supervision of Health Canada.
“We think that the industry demonstrated that privatization works,” Ogden said.