Several provinces are plowing full-steam ahead with plans to ask the public how they should manage the introduction of legal recreational pot in Canada. But Ontario, it seems, isn’t one of them.
Or, if there are plans, the province’s “Legalization of Cannabis Secretariat” is not ready to share them yet. Secretariat officials have been holding private meetings and promise to “engage with the public” later.
The lack of information is surprising, says Jeffrey Lizotte, the CEO of NextWave Brands, a cannabis lobbying and consulting firm.
Ontario is the country’s most populous province, and the epicentre of the legal cannabis industry, he notes. More than half of the Health Canada licensed grow-ops that sell to medical patients are in Ontario, and those facilities are expanding to supply recreational pot users, too.
“Ontario should be the leader,” Lizotte says.
The federal government aims to make dried pot and cannabis oil legal by July 1, 2018, and has unveiled its legislation to that effect, but many key details have been left to the provinces.
Alberta, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories have planned or begun consultations. Alberta has encouraged citizens to start discussion groups to debate questions under provincial control, such as: Where should marijuana be sold? Should the province raise the legal age for purchasing pot above the federal minimum of 18? Should people be allowed to use cannabis in public? Should the province create new impaired driving laws? How should cannabis be treated in the workplace?
In New Brunswick, where the government considers the cannabis industry a pillar of economic growth, a legislative committee will hold public hearings this summer. Quebec plans a summit of experts in June, followed by regional consultations and draft legislation in the fall.
In Ontario, the Cannabis Secretariat has been holding private meetings.