Pubdate: Sat, 09 Sep 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Vinay Menon
Page: A1


Monopolizing marijuana outlets is an idea whose time should never have

Trying to find any good that can come from the LCBO seizing control of
the marijuana market is like trying to get high by smoking a rolled-up
Bounty towel.

It's strange. Honestly, I can usually find something good in just
about anything. The other night, my wife unilaterally imposed a new
household budget and whipped up a dinner of "Greek tacos" that were
hastily constructed with leftover souvlaki skewers and a mixture of
spices few Mexicans would endorse and, though it was touch-and-go for
a bit, I was not rushed to the ER. So that was good. But upon learning
Kathleen Wynne's Liberals plan to open 150 stand-alone marijuana
stores - come for the 30 per cent markup of bundled excise taxes, stay
for the glossy CCBO magazine with Facewreck Haze garden-party recipes
- - the only feeling was one of a bad trip. And I don't even use
recreational drugs. On what future potheads will refer to as Black
Friday, Ms. Wynne took a big hit off the nanny-state bong and
announced plans for the provincial government to add "drug dealer" to
its monopoly portfolio. At this rate, I give it six months before she
decrees that all snow tires be purchased! exclusively through a
Service Ontario kiosk.

As the Star's Robert Benzie reported: "The stand-alone cannabis
outlets - physically separate from existing provincial-owned liquor
stores - and a government-controlled website will be the only place
weed can lawfully be sold after Ottawa legalizes it on July 1."

Yes, after weed is legalized on July 1 - or given Justin Trudeau's
penchant for broken promises, perhaps that should read if weed is
legalized - Wynne will bravely mutate into a cross between Metrolinx
and El Chapo and aim to control the local supply of cannabis through
Beer Store-style outlets where the "product" is hidden from view,
circa 1962, and the surreal experience is decidedly at odds with the
presumed preferences of marijuana enthusiasts who've been known to do
some impulse buying outside of traditional retail hours, and who
likely won't be thrilled when their new dealer is closed for a holiday
or is suddenly on strike. Then there is the issue of supply and
demand. And here it is not clear if Wynne is trying to corner the
market on marijuana or rare orchids.

In a "backgrounder" released on Black Friday, with the wildly exciting
title, "Ontario's Cannabis Retail and Distribution Model," the
government's "proposed approach" is to open 80 stores by 2019, before
that number climbs to 150 the following year.

Is that sufficient when the government is also shuttering every
private dispensary? If you've ever tried to locate an LCBO outside a
major urban pocket, you know the answer is "not bloody likely." The
weird part is the government is claiming that it and only it can
control cannabis at a time when it has ceded to public pressure and
allowed beer and wine sales to seep into grocery aisles.

This makes the claim of higher responsibility - "Ontario is proposing
a safe and sensible approach to the retail of recreational cannabis,
overseen by the LCBO through a subsidiary corporation," reads the
backgrounder - harder to reconcile with the revenue-grab reality. It's
like saying, "I trust my ex to take the kids on a skydiving vacation,
but he's strictly prohibited from picking them up after school."

So the government is now in the process of expending a startling
volume of tax dollars to: a) effectively kill competition, b) reduce
the choice and convenience for citizens interested in buying a
legalized product, c) inhibit entrepreneurship and small-business
growth in an emerging sector, and d) do all of this under the dubious
guise of control in the hope nobody will notice the blatant overreach.

Again, I have no dog in this fight. I'm not a user. But if I were, I'm
not sure I'd want to venture out to a Big Box mall, wander into an
antiseptic store with a Walmart vibe and exchange pleasantries with a
grumpy, on-the-clock employee who may not know a Champagne Kush from a
Veuve Clicquot. I'm not sure I'd want to return to my car carrying a
CCBO-branded paper bag after "browsing" theoretically and being made
to feel like I was purchasing an AK-47 at a Toys "R" Us.

Which is why the only thing Wynne is destined to achieve is breathe
new life into the black market. This decision is a lump of coal in the
vaporizer of users.

As any drug dealer can tell you, territory is key. And on Black
Friday, Wynne made it clear she believes the province is her street
corner and rival factions hoping to get a piece of this action will be
wiped out by her gang of bureaucrats.
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MAP posted-by: Matt