Article by Toronto Star Editorial Board
Ontario’s Liberal government deserves a lot of credit for finally loosening up the province’s antiquated and paternalistic system for selling wine and beer. It’s made it easier for consumers to purchase alcohol safely and responsibly, while also being treated more like actual adults.
Now, though, the government seems determined to repeat the mistakes of the past by giving a new state-run monopoly total control over the sales of recreational marijuana when it becomes legal next July.
The government’s “safe and sensible approach” to regulating and selling cannabis, rolled out on Friday, involves setting up a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that will have the exclusive right to sell marijuana, online and through a new chain of standalone stores.
Forty storefronts are scheduled to open by next summer, with about 150 planned by 2020. The illegal “dispensaries” that have popped up all over Toronto and elsewhere will be driven out of business.
Of course, there are ample reasons to be cautious about making marijuana legal. The public and the government are right to be concerned about many issues, including the effect of pot on young people, how to enforce the law against driving while stoned, and making sure bystanders’ health isn’t compromised by people toking up in public.
So it’s good to see the government taking steps to protect young people with strict controls on sales to anyone under 19, a public health campaign, and giving municipalities a say on where stores should be located (not near schools, for example).
It’s right to plan a crack-down on impaired driving. And restricting consumption to private homes makes sense. Few people want to be subjected to others smoking pot on sidewalks and other public spaces.