‘Sensible Ontario’ Brings the Fight for Ontario Cannabis Lounges to the People

Article by Sam Riches, Leafly

‘Sensible Ontario’ Brings the Fight for Ontario Cannabis Lounges to the People SAM RICHES. Tyler James, one of the directors of Sensible Ontario, meets the press. (Courtesy of Sam Riches)

On the morning of January 26, in an east Toronto cannabis lounge still pungent from the previous night’s activities, a campaign that could shape Ontario’s political future was sparked.

Up the street, protestors were gathered around Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s downtown Toronto constituency office, rallying against the government’s plan to increase the tax on medical cannabis, the only prescription medicine where tax is applied. Inside the lounge, Sensible Ontario—a grassroots campaign from the Ontario Cannabis Consumer & Retail Alliance that is challenging Ontario’s cannabis legislation—was making its first media appearance.

While the Canadian government has vowed to legalize recreational cannabis this July, they’ve left it up to the individual provinces and territories to set their own cannabis policies. While some provinces, like British Columbia and Alberta, have opted to allow private retailers, Ontario has emerged with a plan that has been criticized as extremely regulatory in approach, as it would ban both private dispensaries and cannabis lounges.

When Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi outlined Ontario’s legislation in September, he vowed increased enforcement and additional policing resources were on the way. His warning to dispensaries: “Consider yourself on notice.”

Sensible Ontario would like to see a less militaristic approach, and a model that permits both licensed cannabis lounges and private storefronts. They’re confident that’s what Ontario’s cannabis-imbibing population would like as well.

“A mixed-model approach would mitigate the burden on taxpayers, eliminate the black market faster, and allow for greater access, not just for recreational users but also for medicinal patients,” says Tyler James, the director of community outreach for Eden Medical Society, and one of the four directors of Sensible Ontario.

The Ontario government has said they plan on having 40 retail stores operating across the province in July. For comparison’s sake, there was believed to be nearly 100 dispensaries operating in Toronto alone last summer. This has caused speculation that once legalization arrives the province will not be able to meet demand. Sensible Ontario is trying to mitigate future problems by crafting sensibly policy out of the gate, according to James.

This June, one month before legalization, Ontario will hold a provincial election. Whoever wins will be in charge of shaping Ontario’s cannabis future. By the time the summer arrives, James suspects that cannabis policy will be a large issue, and, if the Sensible Ontario campaign goes well, in front of the public.

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