Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Rob Ferguson
Page: A8


Finance minister to work with Ottawa, other provinces for uniformity
across Canada

Ontario's biggest weed dealer is considering a retail price of about
$10 a gram in a system that could bring a tax windfall of more than
$100 million a year.

That $10 fee - estimated after New Brunswick signed deals with two
suppliers last week - is on the radar as officials here determine a
price for recreational marijuana when it becomes legal next July1,
Finance Minister Charles Sousa says.

"It's certainly something we're giving consideration to," Sousa told

"We're trying to work with all of our colleagues across Canada," Sousa
added, noting federal and provincial finance ministers will meet later
this year on pricing and taxation levels.

"The intent is to have some uniformity with these prices across

It's crucial to have prices in line with neighbouring jurisdictions
and to "ensure it's not overly expensive" to avoid fuelling illegal
sales in the underground economy, Sousa added. Critics have warned the
government monopoly on pot sales will not kill the black market, with
some observers saying street prices are below $10.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said plans for 40 government-run cannabis
stores province-wide in 2018 will not put much of a dent in the black
market right away.

"It's pretty naive," she told reporters Wednesday.

Sousa would not speculate on how much the sale of recreational
cannabis could bring to provincial coffers.

That's because the cost of a new LCBO-run system of stand-alone pot
stores, public education about the impacts of marijuana, and the costs
of enforcement and policing will have to be factored in.

But Sousa conceded gross revenues of more than $100 million annually
are possible given that Ontario will have a larger customer base than
many U.S. states with legalized marijuana.

"It's not a ridiculous number to consider because, as you've seen in
other parts of North America, the numbers have actually been even higher."

Eight U.S. states, including California, Colorado and Washington, have
legalized marijuana.

CNN has reported that Colorado, for example, has brought in $506
million in taxes and fees since retail sales began in 2014, with $200
million last year alone.

The finance minister suggested sales will be brisk when the
government's shops and website begin filling orders for cannabis next

"Demand across Canada is actually pretty high. . . . You can see it by
the number of shops that already are there illegally."

The government has signalled those illegal shops will be shut down as
the government opens 40 of its stores next July, rising to 150 within
two years. The LCBO will get its cannabis products from medical
marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.

Ontarians will have to be 19 to purchase cannabis - the same age of
majority as with alcohol - and can only consume it legally at home.

The government says it chose the LCBO to run the pot distribution
system because it already has staff trained to refuse underage
drinkers and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt