Pubdate: Sat, 09 Sep 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: A1


Plan is to open 40 stores in 2018 when pot is legalized; eventual
number to rise to 150 outlets

TORONTO - Ontario is the first province out of the gate with a
detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana when
Ottawa legalizes it next summer.

The plan comes with a government vow to shut down illegal storefront
pot shops in cities across the province.

The Liberal government announced Friday that it will sell marijuana in
as many as 150 dedicated stores run by the province's liquor control
board. Those looking to purchase marijuana when it becomes legal
across the country will be subject to the same age and usage
restrictions currently in place for alcohol, said Attorney General
Yasir Naqvi.

The process of purchasing recreational cannabis will closely mimic the
one currently in place at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Naqvi said residents 19 or older will be able to purchase marijuana at
separate retail outlets or through a website run by the LCBO that
should be ready for business next July. Consumption of legal weed will
not be allowed in public spaces or workplaces and should be confined
to private residences, Naqvi said.

However, he said the government will explore the possibility of
allowing marijuana-licensed establishments in the future.

The province expects to have all the stores operational by 2020, with
the first 40 stores opening next summer.

Those stores will only sell marijuana, not alcohol.

One of the government's priorities, Naqvi said, involves clamping down
on illegal distribution channels. He made it clear that will include
dispensaries that have cropped up in recent months in anticipation of
widespread legalization.

"Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal
retailers under the new model," Naqvi said.

"... These pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down. If you
operate one of these facilities, consider yourself on notice."

The federal government introduced legislation in April with a goal of
legalizing and regulating the use of recreational pot by July 1, 2018,
but left it up to individual provinces to design their own
distribution system and usage regulations.

In July, Canada's premiers told the federal government they needed
more time to get their rules in place before Ottawa went ahead with
the marijuana legalization.

They asked for clarification around road safety and enforcement,
preparation and training on distribution, taxation, public education,
and the impact legalization might have on the black market.

But despite the concerns, Ontario is moving ahead and Naqvi said the
time-tested model at the LCBO made sense as a blueprint for cannabis
in the province.

Naqvi said setting the minimum purchasing age at 19 is intended to
protect youth from potential drug use.

The new regulations, however, will also contain language allowing
police to confiscate small amounts of pot from those under 19 without
incurring criminal charges.

Asked about expected revenues, Finance Minister Charles Sousa could
provide no estimates, saying the market conditions and federal tax
levels will impact the bottom line and are unclear.

"Frankly, this is uncharted territory and we're going to have to
monitor it and see how it develops," Sousa said.

He said the government has been working on the pot file for about a

"We are running out of time," he said. "We have to be prepared by next

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery predicted Ontario's plan will limit the
supply of marijuana in the province and will contribute to the growth
of the black market.

"I've been worried from the beginning that the so-called legalization
is nothing more that Prohibition 2.0 with (police) and politicians
looking to make money themselves," Emery said.

Sousa could not say what the start-up costs for the stores will be but
expects they will be recovered over time.

He said legislation regulating the control of marijuana will be
introduced in the fall.

The federal government has pledged to work with provinces and commit
resources to pot-related needs like public security, policing and
educational campaigns.

On Friday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph
Goodale said the federal government will spend $274 million to bolster
law enforcement and border efforts to "detect and deter" drug-impaired
driving and enforce the proposed cannabis legalization and regulation.
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