Pubdate: Mon, 06 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Robert Benzie
Page: A8


Opposition support unclear after Liberal attorney general tables bill
on marijuana sales

It remains hazy whether the opposition parties at Queen's Park will
back the provincial Liberal government's legislation for recreational

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi last Wednesday tabled the Cannabis Act,
the blueprint for how and where marijuana will be sold in Ontario
after the federal government legalizes it July 1.

Naqvi's bill creates the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC),
an LCBO subsidiary that will control online sales and operate 40
stand-alone weed shops as of next summer. That number will rise to 150
by 2020.

The OCRC will have the monopoly on Ontario's recreational marijuana
market and "dispensaries" now operating illegally will be forced out
of business under the threat of fines of up to $1 million and jail
terms of as long as two years less a day.

"We are committed to eliminating the illegal market and taking down
illegal cannabis storefronts," Naqvi said Thursday.

Only those 19 and over will be permitted to buy, consume or grow
marijuana and its usage will be restricted to private homes.
Consumption will be outlawed in all public places, offices and vehicles.

Those who opt to grow their own will be allowed to have up to four
cannabis plants at home, but just for personal use.

The government will soon launch a public awareness campaign about the
potential perils of smoking weed.

"This . . . will help education, health, youth and social service
providers who work to prevent and reduce the harms of substance use in
youth and young adults," the attorney general said.

"As we have in the past with cigarette smoke, we also need to take
steps to limit the health impacts of second-hand cannabis smoke."

The Liberals have a majority in the legislature and do not need
opposition support to pass the bill, which is likely to happen before
MPPs break for Christmas on Dec. 14.

Neither the Progressive Conservatives nor the New Democrats are
tipping their hand on whether they will back the Liberal law.

But with an Ontario election set for June 7, 2018, either Progressive
Conservative Leader Patrick Brown or NDP Leader Andrea Horwath could
succeed Kathleen Wynneas premier by the time Cannabis Day rolls around
July 1.

So there is keen interest on where the Tories or New Democrats will

PC MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill) emphasized the need for clamping down
on the black market.

"They say they're going to stop the illicit sale of cannabis. Well, we
still have contraband cigarettes being sold. There are a lot of people
concerned in our communities," Martow told the legislature on Thursday.

"I didn't hear specifically how we're going to address testing in
terms of impairment. How are we going to be testing whether or not
people are indeed taking cannabis - when they took it, how long it
will be in their system and how it actually affects them?" she asked.

NDP MPP France Gelinas (Nickel Belt) said Naqvi's bill is "more of a
disappointment than anything else" due to the limited number of
outlets. The LCBO announced 14 municipalities - Toronto, Mississauga,
Brampton, Vaughan, Barrie, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Sault
Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor - have the first
legalized weed stores. New Democrat MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said
Friday that "40 retail locations cannot possibly serve the demand"
across Ontario.

"By failing to locate retail outlets in places like Niagara,
Brantford, Peterborough, Cornwall, Sarnia and North Bay and leaving
large communities like Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa underserved, it's
clear that Kathleen Wynne doesn't get it," Natyshak said.

While Tory MPP Bob Bailey (Sarnia-Lambton) will not have to worry
about a government-run marijuana shop in his riding, he warned of
potential problems at the U.S. border.

"Sarnia could be a toking tourist opportunity location, where people
will cross to buy marijuana they can't buy in Michigan and other
states," said Bailey, noting police are also alarmed at the pace of

"I heard from the chief of police and other chiefs of police. They say
they won't be ready for July. There's no way that they can implement
all the rules that will have to go along with this," he said.

Only Mike Schreiner's Greens have yet to oppose the Liberal

"The Liberals' approach seems to ramp up criminalization of pot
outside the government monopoly, which undermines the reasons for
legalizing it in the first place," said Schreiner, whose party has no
MPPs at Queen's Park.
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