Economy

Ontario Aims to Open 60 Stores and Create Cannabis Control Board

Ontario Aims to Open 60 Stores and Create Cannabis Control Board

The announcement is not a surprise as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has mused for months about how the province's liquor board or equivalent could be used to distribute cannabis, Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian said Friday in a note. They can also weigh in on where people should be able to grow marijuana plants and how much cannabis they should be permitted to buy at once.

Ontario will set the minimum age to purchase recreational cannabis at 19 years old, the same as alcohol and tobacco.

- "We are deeply disappointed that the Ontario government has chose to implement a public sector monopoly for cannabis sales in the province".

Other details of the plan, announced today at a joint press conference held by Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Health Minister Eric Hoskins, and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in Queen's Park: the aforementioned 150 government-run cannabis stores will be overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and sales of legal adult-use cannabis will be restricted to those 19 and above (the same as liquor).

Quebec is now running a public consultation on oversight of the cannabis, which should lead to the adoption of a framework law in the fall. "It's proven and we feel strongly it's the right way to go".

"Let me be clear: These pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down", Mr. Naqvi said.

The federal government introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use of recreational pot by July 1, 2018, but left it up to individual provinces to design their own distribution system and usage regulations.

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But the plan unveiled on Friday is silent on whether municipal police forces could expect extra funding as they bust illegal dispensaries, some of which simply reopen after a raid. "I suspect we would be looking at other options".

Mr. Sousa would not speculate on the amount of revenue the government anticipates, saying the federal government still needs to lay out its price and tax structure first.

But despite the concerns, Ontario is moving ahead and Naqvi said the time-tested model at the LCBO made sense as a blueprint for cannabis in the province.

Experts say choking off the black market - which is booming through online and illegal storefront sales - will be key to the long-term success of legalization.

Earlier this summer, Toronto city staff estimated roughly 60 dispensaries remained open despite a year of raids by police.

The locations of the stores would be determined after municipalities are consulted.


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