LILLEY: Government shouldn’t be competing in the pot business

Article by Brian Lilley, Toronto Sun

A variety of cannabis edibles are displayed at the Ontario Cannabis Store in Toronto on Friday, January 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin The Ford government finds itself in an odd spot, saying it believes in small business while advocating for a government monopoly.

The Ford government finds itself in an odd spot, saying it believes in small business while advocating for a government monopoly.
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That is what the provincial government is doing when it comes to cannabis delivery in Ontario.
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Until COVID-19 struck and turned everything on its head, small and large businesses that owned legal cannabis shops were not allowed to offer delivery.
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That was the exclusive domain of the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), well that and the illegal services that run rampant.
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Want weed to your door in an hour or two? Just hop on services like WeedMaps, a legal business that somehow gets away with selling advertising to illegal ones.
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As I said to the premier the other day, I can see at least four dozen illegal cannabis delivery businesses that will offer same day delivery to his Etobicoke constituency office. I could do the same for the home or work address of most people in Ontario.
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If the federal government’s goal of legalizing marijuana was to take away the black market and the money it funnels into organized crime, then it has failed. That failure is in part due to policies at both the federal and in the case of delivery options, the provincial level.
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The illegal delivery services sprang up in conjunction with pot being legalized and they haven’t gone away, despite some police enforcement.
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When the government decided to shut down brick-and-mortar cannabis stores due to COVID-19, they did allow for curbside pickup and delivery for licenced establishments. The province included training provisions of everyone delivering and imposed strict conditions.
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Now, with the ability to offer delivery being reconsidered, the industry is lobbying to keep it and their biggest opponent is the OCS.
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In the eyes of OCS, these retail stores didn’t pay for the ability to deliver cannabis as part of their licence fee. Meanwhile, OCS has spent time building its own delivery option and doesn’t want to give it up.
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Retailers see this as the government competing with them and they are right.
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On Friday, Premier Doug Ford said he understood the issue but didn’t pick a side.
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“I understand where OCS is coming from and I understand their concerns, local stores. So, that’s under discussion with the attorney general’s office, along with the Minister of Finance. And we’ll, we’ll come up with an answer once that comes forward,” Ford said.
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It’s expected to come forward to cabinet this week and Progressive Conservative ministers will decide whether they support small business or a government monopoly.

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