Article by Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber, Financial Post
By all appearances, former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan for the retail distribution of recreational marijuana in Ontario is both good policy and good politics.
To keep marijuana out of the hands of children and eliminate the black market, Wynne has proposed a government-run retail distribution network based on the very successful Liquor Control Board of Ontario. This makes sense, as there is virtually no black-market for alcohol in Ontario and it is very difficult for minors to buy it.
But when you look below the surface, the Wynne retail plan is a public health disaster that will not only fuel the black market, it will increase the likelihood that dangerous forms of marijuana will be accessible to underage users.
There are currently 651 LCBO stores in Ontario and zero government marijuana stores. This means at least as many marijuana stores are needed across the province to meet the flood of anticipated demand. Even if the government had the budget to build all of those stores — which it doesn’t — it’s too big a project for one organization to take on all at once.
The current plan, then, is to build 150 new stores over the next three years, only four of which will be in Toronto by 2019. But that will clearly leave Ontarians underserved: Imagine if there were only four LCBO stores in Toronto and you had to drive 30 minutes just to get into the lineup for a bottle of wine.