By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 16, 2017
Unless you’ve had your head in a cloud of smoke, you’re likely aware the federal government is rolling out legislation to legalize marijuana, a move that has sparked some controversy.
And dubious puns.
Pot will become legal in Canada on July 1, 2018, and the federal government has left it to provincial governments to create respective frameworks around how it will be sold.
In Ontario, the Liberal government has announced a plan that is extremely strict, so strict that, depending on where you live, you may not notice that marijuana is legal at all.
The government will monopolize the sale of marijuana through freestanding stores throughout the province. It will be the LCBO for pot. In fact, the LCBO will oversee the sale of recreational cannabis.
At first, it will open 40 pot stores. 40. That’s for the whole province. That’s one store for every 300,000 or so Ontarians. Those 40 locations are not yet clear, with only 14 having been announced. Half of them are in the GTA or cities south. They are Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor. The province is in talks with municipalities to decide where the other stores will be located.
By 2020, there will be 150 of them throughout the province, which is still not very many. To put things in perspective, there are more than 1,200 LCBOs.
So, depending on where one lives, it could be a long, long drive to purchase legal marijuana.
The government had an opportunity to create a much more comprehensive framework by selling marijuana through the hundreds upon hundreds of dispensaries that, while technically illegal right now, already exist. There are more than 100 of them in Toronto alone. Or they could have introduced the sale of marijuana alongside cigarettes at convenience stores. These options would have given private business owners a piece of the pot pie.
Of course, the monopolization of marijuana sales should come as no surprise in a province where, only for the past couple of years, have we been able to purchase beer and wine in select grocery stores.
The limited number of cannabis stores means that the black market for marijuana will continue to exist for many years in Ontario, which means violent crime that sometimes goes along with it will also continue to exist.
And anyone worried about some kind of reefer madness hysteria taking hold, red-eyed young people in the streets, demanding baked goods, can chill out. Apparently the smoking of recreational marijuana will only technically be permitted in private residences, which seems to be a bit of a double standard, as people can legally drink themselves into a stupour in bars throughout the province.
So, while marijuana will become legal in Canada next July, in many parts of Ontario, you won’t even know it.