Fourteen Ontario municipalities — including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, and Hamilton — will have the first LCBO-run recreational marijuana stores.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which runs the new Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), announced the first wave of 40 stores on Friday.
While the exact locations remain to be determined, Barrie, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor will also have the legalized weed stores.
“Over the coming weeks, staff from the Ministry of Finance and the LCBO will meet with staff at the identified municipalities to discuss the guidelines and process for sitting stores and local interests,” a statement read.
“The guidelines will achieve our objectives of protecting youth by ensuring stores are not in close proximity to schools, while providing access within communities and addressing the illegal market,” the LCBO added.
“As part of the engagement with municipalities, when a specific store site is identified, a public notice will be posted online here and at the physical site. The public will have the opportunity to submit questions and comments on the intended site before it is confirmed,” it continued.
“Additional municipalities intended for stores by July 2018 will also be identified. Consumers in all regions of Ontario will have access to cannabis through an online channel.”
The news came two days after Attorney General Yasir Naqvi tabled the landmark Cannabis Act to prepare Ontario for the federal legalization of recreational marijuana on July 1.
That bill paves the way for 150 standalone LCBO-run shops by 2020.
The OCRC will have a monopoly on the weed market in Ontario and the existing “dispensaries” now operating illegally will be forced out of business.
“These pot stores that we see in our neighbourhoods today are illegal. They will remain illegal — only the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation could sell cannabis for recreational purposes,” Naqvi said Wednesday.
The Cannabis Act imposes penalties for running a dispensary of up to $1 million for a corporate owner and $100,000 for an individual plus jail sentences of up to two years less a day.
Only those 19 and over can buy, consume, or grow cannabis and it can only be used in private homes. Usage will be prohibited in all public places, workplaces, and in all vehicles.
As many as four cannabis plants can be grown in private homes for personal consumption.
There are also stiffer penalties for motorists who drive while under the influence of marijuana.
With communities like Niagara, Peterborough, Muskoka, Cornwall, North Bay, Timmins, and Sarnia were left off the initial list for retail outlets, some are expressing concern the Liberal weed plan is half-baked.
NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said the initial “40 retail locations cannot possibly serve the demand in a province the size of Ontario.”
“Today’s list of 14 communities slated for retail cannabis locations together with Kathleen Wynne’s cannabis bill is a really disappointing package, and it leaves Ontarians with many more questions than answers,” said Natyshak.
“By severely restricting retail access to cannabis, her plan won’t put a dent in organized crime or stop the flow of unregulated cannabis to the market.”
Source: Toronto Star