Pubdate: Sat, 09 Sep 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Robert Benzie
Page: A22


Government-controlled outlets, website only place weed will be bought

Premier Kathleen Wynne is cornering Ontario's recreational marijuana
market by restricting sales to 150 LCBO-run stores.

The stand-alone cannabis outlets, separate from provincially 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.

In a move that will close scores of illegal "dispensaries" that now
dot Ontario cities, the LCBO will get its product from the medical
marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.

Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase or possess
marijuana, and pot consumption will be limited to private homes.

Smoking weed will continue to be illegal in any public space,
including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles. Prices will be
kept competitive to curb the black market.

The government expects a boost in tax revenues.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and
Health Minister Eric Hoskins unveiled the plan Friday at Queen's Park
after months of work from Ontario's cannabis secretariat.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which runs the province's 651
liquor stores, using workers who are members of the Ontario Public
Service Employees Union, will oversee all retail sales and run the
online service.

Naqvi said the government has "heard people across Ontario are anxious
about the federal legalization of cannabis."

"The province is moving forward with a safe and sensible approach to
legalization that will ensure we can keep our communities and roads
safe, promote public health and harm reduction, and protect Ontario's
young people," the attorney general said.

There will be 40 LCBO weed stores in place across the province on
July1, 2018, 80 by 2019, and 150 in 2020.

"We will draw upon our decades of experience and work in partnership
with the government to deliver on its objectives," said LCBO president
and CEO George Soleas, stressing the Crown corporation supports
"moderate consumption."

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas hailed the Liberals for "a
prudent plan."

"There is no downside to today's announcement; it's a model that we
encourage other provinces to emulate," Thomas said.

Online sales will begin next July after Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau's government legalizes recreational marijuana.

The premier has long maintained the LCBO should run things, because
the booze monopoly has staff trained to keep underage drinkers from
buying alcohol and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.

Jodie Emery, co-owner of Cannabis Culture, said the government should
have allowed the storefronts to continue. "Do not criminalize the
existing industry. This is deeply disappointing," Emery said, warning
that a government monopoly will not end the black market. "This is
doomed to fail," she said. Canadian Federation of Independent Business
president Dan Kelly also panned the "public sector monopoly," saying
"an above-ground, regulated private sector could stay much closer to
customers' preferences and would guard against an underground industry."

The government is expected to unveil next week new road safety rules
to curb impaired driving.

Other jurisdictions that have legalized weed have seen a spike in such
offences, so the province will try to pre-empt this using heftier
penalties and new testing machines.

As it stands, the only legally available marijuana is prescribed by a
medical doctor and comes from 58 producers licensed and inspected by
Health Canada.

The product can be delivered only directly to patients' doors by
Canada Post or a courier.

- - With files from Jennifer Pagliaro
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MAP posted-by: Matt