Too Many? Too Few? More Problems? Everyone Has an Opinion…
The Ontario government announced that only 25 retail outlets will be open for business on April 1, 2019. That’s fewer than the Liberals had planned for opening on October 17, 2018, and much fewer than the 1,000 stores the PC initially predicted.
However, the Doug Ford government doesn’t see it as a flip-flop on its policy, but rather a reaction to a Canadian reality: there isn’t enough supply to meet cannabis demand in Canada.
“Taking into consideration the required investments for a prospective Ontario private legal retailer, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licences,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “We will continue to urge the federal government to take immediate action to ensure licensed producers ramp up production in order to meet the anticipated market demand for recreational cannabis.”
Others, including NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh, see the back-peddling as a win for black market cannabis.
“The Liberal plan to open just 40 cannabis storefronts was… an open invitation to the illegal cannabis market to operate in Ontario,” Singh said. “Doug Ford’s change of plan to restrict the number of cannabis stores to just 25 is going to make that problem so much worse.”
The Cannabis Council of Canada on the other hand called the decision a “measured and responsible approach” to addressing the shortages, noting that empty shelves and inconsistent product doesn’t do anybody any good.
“We must remember that legalization is a process, not an act,” Cannabis Council of Canada executive director Allan Rewak told the CBC in an email.
Licences Doled Out By Lottery
Those 25 licences will be awarded through a lottery process managed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Results will be announced in January 2019. There wasn’t any word in the CBC report below about whether or not geographic location would be taken into account, leaving the opportunity, for example, that Toronto could get all 25 licences leaving the rest of the province out in the cold.
Cannabis shortages have been reported across Canada. The PC government in Ontario cited store closures in Quebec and elsewhere as part of the reason for the decision to limit the initial licences. There was no word as to when additional licences would be made available.
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