Article by Michael J. Armstrong, Hamilton Spectator
The provincial government announced Monday it’ll let businesses handle all storefront cannabis sales in Ontario. This switch from public to private-sector retailing will mean more convenience for Ontario cannabis consumers. That, in turn, will help legal cannabis compete against black market products.
The Conservatives’ action on this topic is much needed. The ex-governing Liberal’s plan for a public-sector retail monopoly, Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., was heading for disaster.
The first problem is consumer inconvenience. OCRC expected to open only 40 outlets in 2018 and 150 by 2020 to somehow serve Ontario’s 14 million residents.
By contrast, Saskatchewan has already awarded 51 retail licences to serve just one million people. Similarly, Alberta originally expected to license about 250 stores for its four million residents. But by April it’d already received over 450 applications.
Ontario’s second problem is slow implementation. OCRC announced the first four store addresses in April but then went silent. Renovations on those sites didn’t begin until July, no other locations or cannabis supply contracts were announced and only 50 employees were hired provincewide. Yet selling was somehow supposed to begin Oct. 17.
(One wonders: did the Liberals order OCRC to freeze everything until after the June election to avoid vote-losing controversies?)
Ontario’s new plan will focus OCRC mostly on cannabis wholesaling. Its only retailing will be online. The private sector will handle all retail stores but not until April. That delay allows for public consultations and legislative revisions.