Ontario’s once-tightly controlled entry into legalized recreational cannabis has seemingly broken wide open.
The Ford government’s first move was to take storefront sales away from the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store and open it up to private retailers.
Earlier this week the government allowed an unlimited number of storefronts across the province, and permitted its use anywhere you can currently smoke cigarettes, making cannabis more accessible and acceptable than alcohol.
Other measures announced this week indicate a more “liberal” attitude to cannabis use. Licensed producers will be able to sell cannabis from their greenhouses in the same way craft breweries can sell their beer in storefronts. The hundreds of existing dispensaries across the province may be eligible for licenses provided they close before Oct. 17.
The floodgates appear ready to open. But, as with so much in government, the devil is in the details. Sweeping policy statements will soon be replaced with regulations that will truly govern all aspects of the legal cannabis market, from producers to end-users. For example, many were surprised by the government’s decision to limit licensed producers to one storefront.
Further regulation will soon answer a number of open questions:
- What constitutes a licensed retailer?
- Will Ontario impose further limits/restrictions on packaging and marketing?
- Will other health professions, such as pharmacists, be permitted to participate in Ontario’s cannabis system?
- Will municipalities use their planning and bylaw powers to further restrict cannabis retailers (location, concentration of retailers, proximity, signage, business hours, additional security restrictions, ID verification requirements, etc.)
The government is actively working to answer these questions in advance of Oct. 17 and April 2019. However, it’s important to remember that this won’t be set in stone. While states like Colorado and California offer parallels for the regulation of legal cannabis, they won’t graft perfectly in Ontario. Over the coming years we can expect some missteps in cannabis governance as there are opportunities in what most will agree is a very bold and exciting experiment.
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