Editorial: Pot plans for Ontario

The province of Ontario announced their plan September 8th to manage the federal legalization of cannabis. The federal government plans to legalize the substance July 1, 2018.

Ontario’s plan includes setting the minimum age for purchasing or possessing recreational cannabis at age 19. Recreational cannabis is also prohibited from public places and work places.

The LCBO will oversee the legal retail of cannabis in Ontario via new stand-alone cannabis stores and an online ordering service. The government’s plan proposes to ensure that alcohol and cannabis are not sold next to each other, and that the province has full control of all retail options. By 2019, the government will have 80 stand alone stores, with that number growing to 150 by 2020.

The government plan is very clear that no third-party retail dispensaries will be allowed and that the government will work with local and provincial authorities to target enforcement. This includes dispensaries already operating in larger cities.

Ontario will establish a prevention and harm reduction strategy that with promote cannabis-related harms and “help people make informed decisions about use.”

Pricing and taxation decisions regarding the sale of cannabis in Ontario will not be made until the federal government provides details on their legislation for legalization.

Like it or not, Canada will legalize the sale of Cannabis on July 1st, 2018. The province had to act, and went above what the minimum levels from the federal legislation could be. For example, the federal minimum age for consumption is age 18, but provinces are allowed to have a higher age.

This plan does manage the retail aspects of cannabis sales, but will government run “pot-shops” cause an upswing in black-market sales.

There was no outline in the government’s press release or subsequent press conference of how much it will cost for the LCBO to oversee cannabis sales in Ontario. The same for enforcement and harm reduction.

With many aspects of legalization still up in the air, Ontario may have been the first province to come up with the plan, but does being first mean having the right plan? Time will tell.