The government of Ontario set a new limit on the number of retail cannabis stores that can open in April 2019, limiting it to only 25 stores initially.
It would seem that the Ontario government isn’t really that worried about combating the black market after all. After months of preparation, debating the legislation, passing the Bill C-45 and implementing the roll-out, the government is mostly worried with how well these brick-and-mortar stores are going to be supplied.
The fact that there aren’t any retail stores to buy weed from doesn’t seem to bother them at all and it would seem that, as long as the Ontario Cannabis Store is working fine and getting thousands of online orders every day, there is nothing to be concerned about.
Far from the truth.
Stores to open in several phases
The government of Ontario announced yesterday that legal cannabis stores will open in several phases.
The first phase will happen in April 2019 with 25 stores getting a green light despite the fact that the province initially expected that there will be around a 1,000 stores opening their doors to customers in April.
Their plan is to allow for 25 stores initially and then expand that number in several stages.
This decision is rather surprising, as it comes after two of the bigger municipalities in Ontario, Mississauga and Markham, decided to opt-out of having retail cannabis stores.
The new “phase-based” plan is different from what was originally planned: An open-market approach to selling legal cannabis and battling the black market.
The reason for all of this? Well, it may sound shocking, but Ontario doesn’t want to fail in its initial release of retail cannabis stores.
Their premise is that they’ve noticed the backlash other provinces got because many stores opened their doors just to close them a few hours later due to selling out the entire stock.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said that the supply issues are very concerning as other provinces did that and felt the wrath of the people when the stores closed.
Following this logic, it would be preposterous if they were to open stores, sell all the weed, and then close because there’s nothing to sell. That would be just silly. Unacceptable.
The solution: You can’t be out of stock if you never open the store in the first place.
Here’s the crazy part
If you recall, the provincial elections were happening several months before weed got legalized in Canada. Premier Kathleen Wynne was the head of Ontario politics at the time, and she lost her seat to Doug Ford who promised an open and free cannabis market in Ontario.
Wynne’s cannabis plan would have allowed for 40 stores to open in the first wave, up to 150 in the first year, and 200 more in the year after.
Ford promised that he would allow for private companies to sell cannabis through retail stores, and that he would raise the cap on the number of stores allowed.
Limiting the number of stores that can open their doors once sales become legal is the exact opposite of what he said while on the campaign trail.
Given that the main excuse for not opening stores is the “lack of supply available”, it would seem that Wynne’s plan would have been much better suited for Ontario.
Many licensed producers are working on upgrading their production capacity as we speak, and in a year’s time would most likely catch up with the demand.
On top of all that, we could have had 40 stores opening their doors way back in October, instead of just 25 in April. That’s right, Premier Wynne promised that those 40 stores would open right away.
Toronto allows for retail sales of cannabis
The Toronto City Councilors have voted 20-4 in favor of allowing retail cannabis stores within the municipal limits.
Privately run businesses will have the opportunity to open doors to the public as of April 2019—all retail sales before that date will be illegal.
The vote happened yesterday after the mayor John Tory showed support for the legalization and retail cannabis stores in the media.
Ontario regulations will allow for stand-alone stores to be open any day between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m, and they must be at least 150 meters away from any school.
The provincial government will allocate approximately $40 million CAD to the municipalities for costs associated with the legalization of marijuana. All of the funding granted by the provincial government will be sent in 2 rounds and the city will receive more than $3 million in the first round.