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Ontario’s No Sell-No Grow Pot Plan – Will Quebec follow?

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No Sell-No Grow Pot Plan – At a press conference on Friday September 8th, Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Finance Minister Charles Sousa outlined the province’s plans to manage the sale and use of marijuana. Back in April 2017, the federal government told provinces, territories and municipalities to develop their own systems for the sale, distribution and usage of marijuana when it becomes legal by July of 2018.
One of the highlights of Ontario’s plan is to control the sale of marijuana through 150 government-run stores and an online service. It is not good news for the province’s illegal dispensaries, as it means the present shops in Ontario will be shut down.

Many people are extremely critical of the decision, as it will continue to allow the black market to thrive – which was one of the most important aspects of legalizing marijuana. Others are very concerned the number of government-run stores will not even come close to meeting the demand already covered by the dispensaries, especially in rural communities – and that it would only strengthen illegal gang-related sales.

How it will work is that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will oversee the legal retailing of cannabis across the province – and cannabis and alcohol will NOT be sold together in the same locations. The cannabis stores will operate within the same standards applying to alcohol sales:

– Ontario will not permit products to be visible to youth and will require a behind-the-counter retail environment, similar to how cigarettes are sold.

– There will be no self-service.

– There will be mandatory training for retail staff.

– Online cannabis sales would require ID checks, signatures upon delivery and no packages will be left unattended at someone’s door.

As well, Ontario will not allow homegrown marijuana in the province, saying it would be impossible to enforce the limit of four plants. It certainly will be a challenge, but not an impossible task – and marijuana advocates are calling it a ‘big cash grab’. If the stores have the monopoly on the market, they are sure to overcharge clients.       In Quebec, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said they would be discussing how the government could control home growing of cannabis – and contrary to a report in La Presse, they have yet to make a decision.

Here are some more details of Ontario’s proposed plan:

– 150 stand-alone stores will be opened by 2020, including 40 in July 2018, servicing all regions of the province.

– The minimum age to use, purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario will be 19 years old, the same as the current minimum age for alcohol. It would be prohibited for anyone under that age and will give police the power to confiscate small amounts of pot, but the focus will be on prevention and harm reduction, not on criminal prosecution.

– Recreational cannabis will be prohibited in public places, cars and workplaces, and will only be allowed in private residences.

– Online distribution will be available across Ontario from July 2018 onward through a site run by the LCBO.

– Pricing and taxation decisions will come at a later date.

– Legislation regulating the control of marijuana will be introduced in the fall.

Do you think Quebec should follow the same initiatives? Is the legal age of 19 years old still too young? Should people be able to grow their own pot at home – with proper enforcement in place?

Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca

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