Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Justin Giovannetti, Grant Robertson, and Mike Hager
Page: A1


Province will be first to outline how it plans to tackle distribution
once legalization takes place

Ontario is planning to open dozens of government-run stores across the
province to sell cannabis and will allow for the drug's online sale
after the federal government legalizes its recreational use.

The Globe and Mail has learned through industry and government sources
that Ontario's Liberal government will allow the sale of marijuana at
40 storefronts across the province that will be run by a
government-owned entity that will also control online sales, however
more retail locations will be added over time. The areas where the
stores will be located haven't been determined yet, but will be
finalized after municipalities are consulted.

The LCBO, Ontario's 90-yearold monopoly on the sale of liquor, is not
expected to be a part of those sales.

Ontario Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi will unveil the province's retail
distribution model for marijuana on Friday morning and will be joined
by the province's finance and health ministers, according to his office.

Ontario will be the first province to outline how it plans to tackle
the contentious issue of distribution.

Late last year, Mr. Naqvi said his province was most concerned with
ensuring cannabis is consumed in a socially responsible way. "This is
a very complex issue," Mr. Naqvi said in December when asked about
where pot will be sold. "This is the end of prohibition of our time.
We have to get it right."

The province's plan will focus on the price of the drug according to
sources, specifically not charging consumers too much. A lower price
will be aimed at concerns that heavy taxes could drive Ontarians to
the black market. Most of the rules establishing how stores are laid
out and how they can be operated will be set by coming federal

Despite calls from many premiers for more guidance on the file, the
federal government has committed to legalizing the recreational use of
the drug by July 1.

But, to date, Ottawa has indicated that it will leave the contentious
issues of regulating the wholesale distribution and retailing of
cannabis up to the provinces and territories.

Provinces and territories will also have a significant say in how
cannabis revenues are spent. A study by the Parliamentary Budget
Officer released late last year stated about 60 per cent of marijuana
taxation should flow to the provinces.

The first stores in Ontario will be limited in what they can sell,
sources say, with the government ruling out edible snacks and drinks
containing the drug.

While Premier Kathleen Wynne had suggested in the past that the LCBO
might be the best option for the distribution of marijuana, in recent
months she had stepped back from those remarks, stating only that the
government should have a strong hand in marijuana retail. Ms. Wynne
had drawn the ire of public health and addiction experts when she
floated the idea of selling cannabis in government liquor stores,
which critics said could lead many more people to mix cannabis and
alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

A number of premiers, notably Manitoba's Brian Pallister, have
expressed concerns about how the federal legalization of marijuana
could lead to more cases of unsafe driving. Mr. Pallister has called
on his fellow premiers to call for the delay of legalization to little

While federal legislation would allow 18-year-olds to buy marijuana,
Ms. Wynne said over the summer that the age of sale for the drug in
Ontario would be the same as alcohol at 19.

Some of Canada's largest pharmacy chains have also indicated they are
interested and qualified to distribute cannabis once it's legalized.
It's unclear whether the province will allow any private sales of marijuana.

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.

Dozens of illegal dispensaries spread east from Vancouver to Toronto
after the Liberals swept to office two years ago on a promise to
legalize the drug. A year ago, Toronto police raided more than 40 of
the city's 100 illegal pot shops in a co-ordinated attack on the
sector, which operates outside of Health Canada's mail-order system
for medical cannabis.

Since then, many shops have closed while others have taken their

In B.C., many municipalities, led by Vancouver and Victoria, have
chosen to create bylaws to regulate these pot shops - choosing to
ticket rather than raid these locations and try to keep them at least
300 metres from schools and other dispensaries.
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