Small Business Slams Ontario's Weed 'Monopoly,' But Growers Back Province's Plan

For The Globe and Mail

The plan reveals that the LCBO will oversee the legal retailing of cannabis across the province through the new stand-alone stores and an online ordering service - meaning cannabis and alcohol will not be sold alongside each other. He said that the government has not yet made a decision on whether cannabis will be available in liquor stores.

As a result of these new regulations, the Ontario government is effectively given a monopoly over sales making existing dispensaries illegal distributors which now have 12 months to close down or face criminal prosecution.

"The experience of other jurisdictions such as the USA has shown us that it is better to start with strong controls, and you evaluate the system over time", Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses said the rules "shutting out the private sector will only allow the illicit trade to flourish". "It's going to be controlled by the government".

Formal legislation will be introduced this fall after province-wide consultations.

Naqvi, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Health Minister Eric Hoskins made Friday's announcement. Legal sales will be limited to those 19 and older.

In Southwestern Ontario, where police in some cities including London have played a game of whack-a-mole with illegal pot shops, raiding and shutting them down only to see them pop up again, the quick take-away reaction to Ontario's plan to deal with legalized pot for personal use was generally favourable.

The LCBO will also sell weed online through a government run website.

Government officials said they won't be by schools, and the province will set up "an engagement process" with municipalities to determine locations. He says he understands each province will not have an identical approach to cannabis, but adds "we can not have vastly different frameworks, particularly for provinces that are neighbours".

While there are pros and cons to high so-called sin taxes, tobacco price increases have been blamed for driving customers to illegal smoke shacks, a possibility with marijuana too. "And we will work hard, once we have the federal model, to get that balance right".

"Today's announcement by the Wynne government is an obvious attempt to distract from the Liberal bribery trial now underway, and the upcoming Liberal gas plant scandal trial", NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said in a statement.

In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled plans to legalize recreational marijuana by July 1, 2018. Naqvi and Sousa would not comment on how much the system will cost to set up, how legal marijuana will be priced, or how much revenue the sale is expected to generate for the province. This comes after a period of debate among several provinces and Ontario releasing a survey to citizens for how marijuana will be sold.

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