Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tyler Dawson
Page: A3


Government has consulted more than 50 organizations, list shows

The province of Ontario has met with at least 50 organizations to seek
their input on how it should handle the legalization of marijuana -
groups ranging from the LCBO to Indigenous organizations to a policing
group and local municipalities.

On Friday, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and other ministers are
expected to provide some answers as to how the province is planning to
deal with pot legalization, something the federal government is hoping
to accomplish by July 2018.

Many of the particulars of legalization need to be sorted out by the
provinces, such as deciding how and where it's going to be

The list of those who met with the province, provided to the Citizen
under freedom-of-information legislation, gives few details, but shows
the range of organizations that have an interest in the issue. Loblaws
is included, as was Americanex International Exchange - an online
international cannabis marketplace - and officials from Colorado,
which legalized recreational pot use in 2012.

Distribution was one of the topics that MedReleaf, a medical cannabis
producer, said it discussed when it met with the Ontario Legalization
of Cannabis Secretariat on April 20.

"The thing we certainly wanted to make clear was our view that the ...
preservation of the mail-order system as it currently exists, the
online shopping and the mail-order system is very much something that
we think makes a whole lot of sense," said Darren Karasiuk, the
vice-president of strategy, citing the experience of the medical
marijuana industry as well as the size and population of Ontario.

On July 24, Canopy Growth, a marijuana company in Smiths Falls, met
with policy-makers, alongside other marijuana producers.

"We're pleased to see government working through the policy making
process and including industry in its consultations," communications
director Jordan Sinclair said in an email. For Canopy, he said, the
issue is less what happens next - pot in LCBO stores (long hinted at
by Premier Kathleen Wynne) or private shops - and more that the
industry has the time to prepare.

"The clarity will help us plan. The more notice that we have of what
the market will look like next summer, the better positioned we'll be
to capitalize on it," Sinclair said. "It's going to be really, really
tight in terms of production, in terms of distribution and all of that

Business concerns, though, weren't all the secretariat heard about
during its consultations. Also on the agenda were health concerns -
such as age of purchase, which the federal government proposes to set
at 18, but which could be adjusted higher by provincial governments -
and policing.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Heath, for example, declined to
elaborate on its meetings, saying they were held in confidence, but
its written submission is public record.

"It is critical that cannabis regulations be designed - and maintained
- - with public health as the primary and overriding objective," it says.

In addition to its meetings with experts, the Ontario government
sought public input online over two-and-a-half weeks in July.
Federally, the House of Commons standing committee on health is
holding full-day hearings all next week on Bill C-45, the cannabis
act. The federal legislation is also addressing an overhaul of
impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code.

Pot-impaired motoring and preventing minors from purchasing were among
the concerns of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police when it
met with the secretariat, said Joe Couto, director of government
relations and communications.

"For us, it's strictly about public safety and law enforcement," Couto
said Thursday. "The government has been very good in addressing those
issues with us."

All of these issues, too, will affect the municipalities. Already,
local police forces are dealing with pot dispensaries that have popped
up around the country. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario
has "a number of concerns," said Craig Reid, a senior adviser with the

"We're concerned about the ability of municipal staff to do their
jobs, the ability of municipal officials to advocate on behalf of
their communities and to make sure that the system that is in place
and the retail model, in particular, but also the production model,
sort of fits with what our residents need and want," Reid said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt