Ontario government takes first steps to roll out LCBO-run cannabis store
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 27, 2017 12:04PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 27, 2017 3:25PM EDT
TORONTO -- Municipalities in Ontario will find out in the coming weeks if a provincially run cannabis store could be located in their community.
In a letter sent to the province's municipalities Friday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Ontario's store roll out aims to achieve the right geographic distribution across the province and to reduce the number of illegal marijuana dispensaries that have opened since the federal government announced it will legalize marijuana next summer.
Sousa said a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will run the stores and the agency itself will oversee the planning process to establish their locations.
"Our proposed approach is to build on the expertise and back-office capabilities of the LCBO to set up the Crown Corporation," Sousa said in the letter to municipalities. "Our priority is to reduce the illegal market by building on our strengths to create an efficient and secure system for people across the province."
Sousa said the LCBO will notify municipalities about the proposed cannabis shop locations in the coming weeks and will work with officials in each community to address any concerns.
The public will also be notified about the proposed store locations and will be asked to provide feedback directly to the LCBO, he said.
None of the retail stores will be located near schools, Sousa said.
"As we establish a new legal retail system for cannabis, it is critical that we do so with the objectives of protecting our youth and addressing the illegal market," he said.
The federal government introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use of recreational pot by July 1, 2018, but left it up to individual provinces to design their own distribution system and usage regulations.
Ontario was the first province to announce a detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana and will set the legal age to purchase it at 19.
The province plans to set up approximately 150 standalone cannabis stores by 2020.
The first wave of 40 stores will open in 2018 with that number rising to 80 stores by July 2019.
Consumption of legal weed will not be allowed in public spaces or workplaces and should be confined to private residences, the province has said.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has said the government will clamp down on illegal distribution channels, which include dispensaries that have cropped up in recent months in anticipation of widespread legalization.
"Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal retailers under the new model," Naqvi said in September. "These pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down. If you operate one of these facilities, consider yourself on notice."
Earlier this month, Toronto city council passed a resolution affirming its support for the provincially run cannabis stores but also asked for "detailed guidance and adequate resources and authorities to enforce regulations".