Canada’s cannabis legalization date of October 17 is less than 3 months away, but Ontario’s distribution plan has never been murkier.
A government shakeup last month in which Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals were ousted by newcomer Doug Ford and the Ontario PC party is partially to blame for the lack of clarity surrounding cannabis sales in the province.
Ford announced in March before his election that he was open to allowing private retail distribution in the province, a move that then-Premier Wynne denounced as “reckless.”
Wynne’s government had a plan for province-run dispensaries staffed by unionized workers and a ban on private sales in place. Distribution was to be handled entirely by government-owned Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp, a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
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While the Liberal vision of legalization was spelled out distinctly, Ford’s is, at best, unclear. Daily Hive made repeated attempts to contact the Ford government for comment without success.
Although Ford communications director Jeff Silverstein told the CBC on June 20 that the government would have “more to say once we form government,” there has been near-silence from the Conservative party since they assumed power on June 29.
“I’m private sector, I don’t believe government should stick their nose into everything, but again, this is a path we have never went down,” Ford said at a press conference on June 21.
“We’re going to tread carefully on this and we’re going to consult with the local municipalities and we’re going to make a decision after we talk to caucus.”
But have any decisions been made? Ford has mentioned the need for “consultation” before anything is written in stone, but the NDP opposition has repeatedly accused the government of acting with a lack of transparency.
Here’s what it currently says on ontario.ca about the province’s distribution (emphasis ours):
“When it’s legal, people 19 and over will be able to purchase cannabis in-person or online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. Online orders will be delivered safely and securely.
You will be able to purchase up to 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried recreational cannabis for personal use at one time.
The Ontario Cannabis Store will be the only store that can legally sell recreational cannabis and will follow strict rules set by the federal government.”
The site also specifies that consumers can grow up to four cannabis plants at home, and purchase “seeds and seedlings” from the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Ford’s openness to private cannabis sales is a significant departure from that of embattled previous Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, who, like Wynne, advocated for public sales through the LCBO. Brown was forced to resign before the election when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in January, and was later replaced by Ford in a subsequent leadership race.
Ford’s primary focus since taking office seems to be taking a hatchet to Wynne-created policies – examples include the public school sex-ed curriculum, provincial drug coverage for all residents under 25, and financial support for Toronto’s refugee population – so there is certainly a strong chance that the Tories could ditch their predecessors’ cannabis legislation as well.
Despite the clock ticking, it’s seeming less and less likely that the smoke will clear on Ontario’s cannabis sale policies any time soon.