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Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Health Minister Eric Hoskins unveiled the plan, which makes Ontario the first province or territory in Canada to publicly announce a comprehensive framework.
The plan means the LCBO will oversee the legal retailing of cannabis across the province through the new stand-alone stores and an online ordering service — meaning cannabis and alcohol will not be sold alongside each other.
A main goal of the plan will be “stopping the sale of illegal, unregulated and unsafe cannabis,” Naqvi said at Friday’s news conference.
The plan means that illegal pot shops in Ontario will be shut down, with the province pursuing a co-ordinated strategy with local police forces, the OPP and the federal government.
“If you operate one of these facilities, consider yourself on notice,” Naqvi said.
When it comes to retail and distribution, the province fleshed out the strategy, which will include the storefronts and online ordering.
“Trained and knowledgeable staff will sell products in a safe and socially responsible manner to restrict access for minors and give consumers the information they need,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Finance.
The cannabis stores will operate with the same retailing standards that apply to alcohol, as well as federal requirements for cannabis sales, according to the ministry. That means:
As for online sales, the ministry said it will ensure “secure and safe” delivery across Ontario.
Similar to alcohol sales, online cannabis sales would require ID checks, signatures upon delivery and no packages left unattended at someone’s door.
At a premiers meeting in Edmonton in July, they announced they would ask the federal government to postpone legalization if issues related to road safety, taxation, training for distributors and public education are not addressed.
Already, people are criticizing aspects of Ontario’s plan.
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, feels it misses the mark.
Several prominent cannabis activists are also slamming the plan, including Eric Nash and Wendy Little, two Canadian cannabis industry consultants who tweeted their concern about not enough cannabis stores being opened by the province.
High-profile cannabis supporter Jodie Emery tweeted it’s “disgusting” that police and politicians who fought against legalization are now “cashing in on legal pot.”
She also stressed that she and husband Marc Emery still face serious charges in connection to their Cannabis Culture pot shops.
Health experts are also questioning the province’s direction.
“Considering the well-established network of LCBO stores across the province, and the well-established policies LCBO staff follow with respect to age of majority and Smart Serve, I don’t understand why the government wants to build another stand-alone entity for cannabis sales to the public,” said Scott Leatherdale, an associate professor in Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems and the CIHR-PHAC Applied Public Health Research Chair in youth health.
Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, called early details about the province’s announcement “promising,” but expressed concern over how the government will use revenue generated from cannabis sales.
“We’ve recommended in a recent submission that all revenue should fund mental health and addictions services in Ontario because there is a correlation between cannabis consumption and mental health and addictions issues,” she said in a statement.