Pubdate: Sat, 28 Oct 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: B4


TORONTO - Municipalities in Ontario will find out in the coming weeks
where the government wants to locate the first batch of provincially
run cannabis stores once recreational marijuana is legalized next summer.

In a letter to local authorities sent Friday, Finance Minister Charles
Sousa said Ontario's store roll out aims to achieve the right
geographic distribution across the province and to reduce the number
of illegal marijuana dispensaries that have opened since the federal
government announced its plans to legalize pot.

Sousa said a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will
run the stores and the agency itself will oversee the process to
establish their locations.

"Our proposed approach is to build on the expertise and backoffice
capabilities of the LCBO to set up the Crown corporation," Sousa said
in the letter to municipalities. "Our priority is to reduce the
illegal market by building on our strengths to create an efficient and
secure system for people across the province."

Sousa said the LCBO will notify municipalities about the proposed
cannabis shop sites and will work with officials in each community to
address any concerns.

The public will also be notified about the proposed store locations
and will be asked to provide feedback directly to the LCBO, he said.

None of the retail stores will be located near schools, Sousa said.
"As we establish a new legal retail system for cannabis, it is
critical that we do so with the objectives of protecting our youth and
addressing the illegal market," he said.

Ottawa introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and
regulating the use of recreational pot by July 1, 2018, but left it up
to individual provinces to design their own distribution system and
usage regulations.

Ontario was the first province to announce a detailed plan to sell and
distribute recreational marijuana and will set the legal age to
purchase it at 19.

The province plans to set up approximately 150 standalone cannabis
stores by 2020.

The first wave of 40 stores will open in 2018 with that number rising
to 80 stores by July 2019.

Consumption of legal weed will not be allowed in public spaces or
workplaces and should be confined to private residences, the province
has said.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has said the government will clamp down
on illegal distribution channels, which include dispensaries that have
cropped up in recent months in anticipation of widespread

"Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal
retailers under the new model," Naqvi said in September. "These pot
dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down. If you operate one of
these facilities, consider yourself on notice."

Earlier this month, Toronto city council passed a resolution affirming
its support for the provincially run cannabis stores, but also asked
for "detailed guidance and adequate resources and authorities to
enforce regulations".

A spokesperson for Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city wants to
ensure the focus is on neighbourhood safety, public health and
ensuring the city isn't "burdened with the additional costs created by
these changes."

"(Mayor Tory) has stressed that there should not be an excessive
number of these stores and they should be located in a way that places
a premium on neighbourhood safety," Don Peat said.

Association of Municipalities of Ontario president Lynn Dollin said
her group's members are waiting for more details from the province on
how it plans to fund enforcement measures that include efforts to
close illegal storefront operations.

"We're still wanting to have that conversation with the province
(about) the implications of this decision and how it will effect local
communities and what resources will be necessary in the future to deal
with this," she said.
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