Pubdate: Tue, 12 Sep 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Page: A1


Brantford Mayor Chris Friel wants the province to release the findings
of the consultation process that led to its plans for distribution of
legalized marijuana in Ontario.

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, rolling out plans Friday to sell pot through its LCBO
liquor store monopoly.

Despite a federal task force recommendation against mixing pot and
booze sales, Ontario's Liberal government says marijuana will be sold
in up to 150 dedicated LCBO stores run by the province's liquor
control board.

And buyers will be able to get pot at separate retail outlets or
through an LCBO-run website that should be ready for business by next
July. But Friel is critical of the plan.

"I'm frustrated and deeply disappointed with the provincial
government's suggested approach to managing federal legalization of
cannabis," Friel said.

"The LCBO model is a monopoly controlled by the province. This
proposed model fails to take into consideration opportunities for
entrepreneurs and small business, as well as agricultural interests."
It eliminates potential economic development and entrepreneurship for
municipalities and burdens them with having to manage the strain on an
already maxed-out resources, to deliver municipal social services and
law enforcement, without any of the powers to regulate, noted the mayor.

"What I see happening to (independent) growers is that they become
like those who run craft breweries and getting squeezed out of the
market," said Friel, adding that he's also concerned about the
province's plans' impact on farmers.

"Why can't farmers have this as a third crop?" the mayor said. "Why
couldn't farmers set up their own co-op? No one creates and manages
co-ops better than farmers."

He said that the government's approach will not eliminated the black
market for marijuana.

The federal government introduced legislation early this year that
seeks to legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana by July
1, 2018. Provinces have been left with the job of designing their own
distribution system and regulations.

The Ontario government says the LCBO model is "time-tested" and it
makes sense to use it for marijuana.

But Friel, who is the chair of the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario task force on marijuana legalization, said that the province's
approach is in opposition to what has been suggested by municipalities
and others with an interest in the industry.

"I provided substantial feedback to our provincial partners that is
diametrically opposed to the model proposed," Friel said. "How and why
was that feedback not considered?"

The mayor said he has spent the last 12 months consulting with
advocacy groups, small business owners, farmers, lawyers and
constituents. He is calling on the province to release to the public
the results of its consultation process.

"I think it's incumbent on the ministries to release the results of
the public consultation that informed this strategy, specifically, the
law enforcement table, so that the public can understand the rationale
that led to (the) announcement," Friel said.

"This process was not a dialogue, it was a download.

"I implore the provincial government to also consider the voices
outside of Toronto and Ottawa when making such an important decision
that will dramatically impact all municipalities in Ontario."
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MAP posted-by: Matt