Article by Sam Riches, Leafly
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.