Ontario Delays Private Cannabis Stores as Legalization Looms

Article by Kristine Owram and Jen Skerritt

Business Ontario Delays Private Cannabis Stores as Legalization Looms By Kristine Owram and Jen Skerritt August 13, 2018, 4:24 PM EDT Updated on August 14, 2018, 7:00 AM EDT Province will allow online-only sales beginning Oct. 17 Private retail model is a departure from Liberals’ public plan California Pot Users Turn Out In Droves To Ring In Legal Sales A bowl of marijuana is displayed for a photograph at the MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. California launched legal marijuana Monday, and customers lined up to celebrate the historic moment in San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland -- some of the municipalities given the green light to start sales on January 1. Meantime, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the state's first- and fourth-largest cities, customers were turned away empty handed. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Canada’s largest province is delaying the launch of private marijuana sales in bricks-and-mortar stores until April 2019, nearly six months after the drug is legalized for recreational use.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government said Monday it will start cannabis sales with an online-only retail model when cannabis is legalized on Oct. 17, to be followed by private retail sales on April 1. This is an abrupt policy change from the former Liberal government, which planned to sell cannabis in government-run pot shops, starting with 40 in 2018.

“Implementing this new approach will take time,” Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said at a media conference in Toronto. “We have to get this right and we will not be rushed.”

Ontario is one of the last provinces to announce a model for pot sales as Canada becomes the first Group of Seven country to legalize recreational use nationally. Alberta is approving privately run stores while Quebec plans to sell through its government-run alcohol agency. Legal sales are expected to reach $4.9 billion by 2022, according to a report published Monday by U.S. cannabis research firms Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.

Municipal Opt-Out

The government-run Ontario Cannabis Store will provide the online platform for retail sales, and will also be the wholesaler once private stores open. The province said its website will include a verification system to ensure customers are 19 or older, and will limit purchases to 30 grams. It will only be legal to smoke pot in private residences.

In another policy change, Ontario municipalities will have the option of saying no to cannabis stores within their boundaries and will be given C$40 million ($30 million) over two years to help them cover costs related to legalization. The government will consult with cities and other stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework it said will be aimed at keeping youth, roads, workplaces and neighborhoods safe.

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