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Ontario hands private retailers chance to sell cannabis

Ontario has announced that it will develop the regulations for the sale of cannabis in licensed stores after consulting stakeholders.

There have been recent hints that this decision was in the pipeline, and the Progressive Conservative government added that the province would take charge of online sales.

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli announced the hybrid model on Monday at Queen’s Park, and emphasized that public safety and the elimination of the black market would be a top priority.

“The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores.”

Fedeli says, “The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores. Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will introduce an online sales portal on October 17 to make sure it complies with the federal government’s stipulation that provinces be ready to sell cannabis on that date. The private retail model will come in several months later; a consultation process will be launched with the aim of introducing private stores by April 1.

The announcement sees the previous Liberal government’s plans for a provincial monopoly in tatters. Had they gone ahead, Ontario would have had 150 physical stores by 2020. Under the new plans, OCS will not have any storefronts, but will instead provide home-delivered cannabis, purchased online by age-verified customers.

The OCS will also act as a wholesaler for private LRs, and has proposed an official Ontario Cannabis Retail Seal to help consumers identify the stores where its product can be found.

“Consumers can look to this seal to confirm they are buying from a legal channel.

Fedeli says, “Consumers can look to this seal to confirm they are buying from a legal channel. This is an assurance that the illegal market simply cannot match.”

The changes will require the Ontario Cannabis Act of 2017 to be amended. Its key elements include prohibiting the use of recreational cannabis in all public spaces and workplaces, and prohibiting those under the age of 19 from possessing, consuming or cultivating it.

Ontario’s government is set to consult municipal governments, law enforcement, Indigenous communities, business and consumer groups, and public health advocates.

Municipalities will have a “one-time window” to opt out of allowing sales in physical stores within their boundaries.