Article by David Soberman, The Leaf News
The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford plans to privatize the retail sales of marijuana once it becomes legal next month, in contrast to the policy of the previous provincial government.
Before the end of this year, cannabis sales become legal across Canada with a variety of distribution approaches under consideration. Five other provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland — plan to allow private stores to sell recreational marijuana while others, like Quebec and Nova Scotia, have opted for government-operated retailing.
Sales in Ontario will begin online this fall before expanding to retail locations at a later date.
Ford’s reasoning appears to be ideological: There is too much government, and whenever it’s feasible and safe for the private sector to conduct an activity, it’s better.
But to assess the wisdom of privatizing marijuana sales in Ontario and in Canada at large, it’s useful to consider a number of key factors that affect the market for marijuana as we move toward legalization.
One in five Canadians indulges
Almost 20 per cent of the Canadian population consumed marijuana last year, according to recent surveys. This has two implications.
First, because recreational marijuana is not legal, a substantial fraction of the Canadian population is engaging in illegal activity that can lead to criminal charges. This will change when the law comes into force.
Second, because marijuana cannot be obtained through legal channels, a massive black market exists for weed. The primary beneficiaries of this black market are individuals and organizations that operate outside the law.