Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Finance | By Claude Patterson

Ontario replaces plan for government-run cannabis stores with private retailers

Ontario replaces plan for government-run cannabis stores with private retailers

The provincial government has announced that starting in October it will begin selling marijuana online.

"As we continue to work with the OCS to build their online store, we're excited by the opportunity to work with Ontario's cannabis entrepreneurs to help them build retail operations", Loren Padelford, vice-president and general manager at Shopify, said in the email.

Under the new approach, Canada's most populous province will still start selling cannabis online on the legalization date of October 17, using a website run by the provincially owned Ontario Cannabis Store. Ontario will be the second largest private market for legal marijuana sales, behind California, he said.

The legal age to buy recreational cannabis will remain 19 and consumers will only be allowed to use legalized pot in a private residence, including the outdoor space of the home. The province said its website will include a verification system to ensure customers are 19 or older, and will limit purchases to 30 grams.

Mulroney stressed that the government will "spare no expense" to protect children from marijuana when it's legalized.

"Despite the upcoming legalization of cannabis use for responsible adults, it still poses risks to health and safety".

With MedReleaf, a licensed producer of medical marijuana, in Bradford West Gwillimbury, the town's deputy mayor, James Leduc, said council plans to talk to a lot of different people before deciding whether to allow retail stores.

The government will consult with cities and other stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework it said will be aimed at keeping youth, roads, workplaces and neighborhoods safe.

"The government seems to be changing its mind before making an announcement here, so we really don't know what's to come", said Deepak Anand, vice president of government relations and business development with Cannabis Compliance Inc., an Ontario-based consulting company. No specific number of allowable private-sector stores was given on Monday.

Authorities said that all this is done for the reason that most important for them is public safety. A "tightly regulated" private retail model will then be in place by April 1, 2019.

The plan is a marked departure from the previous Liberal government's preference for government-run pot sales, both online and in physical stores. The OCS will also act as a wholesale supplier for private retailers.

Cannabis isn't as addictive as tobacco, Schwartz said, but those that are prone to addiction could be more at risk with cannabis being sold through the private sector. "They've got to be ready for that in some form or fashion anyway", she said.

Meanwhile, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner applauded Monday's announcement, saying the previous Liberal plan wasn't going to work.

"It would be a shame to have a retail area not be able to create the jobs", he said. "Beyond that it ultimately may end up putting pressure on other governments to consider their own system, to consider opening it up".

"It seems like we're governing on the fly", he said.

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