Pubdate: Tue, 12 Sep 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: John Roe
Page: A11


On July 1 next year, a brand new MCBO store - that's Marijuana Control
Board of Ontario - may open its doors for the first time in a
neighbourhood near you.

What the retail outlet is ultimately named, however, isn't as
important as the fact that, as of last Friday, the Ontario government
had given the public a sensible, workable plan for selling
recreational marijuana in this province. That's a significant
achievement. Canada is headed for a momentous change in less than 10
months when the federal government ends 94 years of prohibition and
legalizes the recreational use of cannabis.

Time's running out to get ready for this, particularly for the

They must quickly decide how the drug will be sold and distributed,
what it will cost and the minimum age of users.

That's a tall order, and the Ontario Liberals deserve praise for being
the first provincial government to announce a retail plan as well as
for mandating the Liquor Board of Ontario to manage sales through a
new subsidiary.

There are strong arguments that favour the action being taken in

As of next July 1, there will be 40 stores selling marijuana in this
province. By 2020, that number will have risen to 150. Sales will be
from behind a counter - there will be no self-serve - and in separate
stores, not LCBOs. So far, so good. To ensure it can keep up with
demand, the government agency will also sell marijuana online starting
next year.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario already does a superb job of
selling another highly regulated and potentially dangerous drug - alcohol.

This experience will be invaluable in setting up a system for the
distribution and sale of marijuana which, like alcohol, will be
limited to those 19 or older.

Critics of the government's plan - and that includes outspoken
marijuana activists - object to handing over cannabis sales to a
government monopoly.

They argue that the 40 retail outlets that open next year cannot
possibly meet the demand for marijuana in a province with more than 13
million people, which will in turn boost black market sales.

No one wants that - except the criminals - and the government will
have to work hard to prevent it from happening.

Initially, at least, the government monopoly will allow Ontario to
responsibly meet the deadline for legal recreational pot.

It would take a whole new bureaucracy to manage applications,
inspections and compliance for privatesector retailers.

And it's too much to expect the province to put that bureaucracy in
place by the middle of next year while also settling complex issues of
pricing and taxation.

Whether the monopoly should continue forever is another question that
should be considered in the coming years.

As we enter the brave new world of legal recreational pot, there are
good reasons for proceeding with caution.

But if beer stores, grocery stores, breweries and wineries all legally
sell alcohol today, private retailers might well eventually deserve a
chance to do the same with marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Matt