The Ontario Government announced today they might be changing their cap on recreational pot stores and their overall Cannabis related budget. This would include a $40 million dollar stimulus to help implement a better system for recreational pot, and combat any shortages with new locations. The Ford Government has been recognized for taking a very responsible approach to Ontario’s recreational markets, unlike other states in the U.S. Initially, they put a cap on the Ontario Retail stores at the first 25 locations, which was their calculated response to the 40 locations the liberals had originally proposed. The Tories felt that rushing out locations in 2018 would help them expand to 150 by 2020, however, the conservatives saw this as a disaster waiting to occur.
The announcement is a testament to the government’s commitment to move towards a more free market with an open allocation of licenses, as Ford’s proposed budget document writes, “The number of stores will eventually be limited only by market demand.” Although a rush to open additional locations in 2018 would have curbed more of the black market sales, the government’s decision to scale up has allowed them to steer from disaster. NDP leaders such as Deputy Leader Sara Singh, and others who understand the delicate nature of the markets, have been backing the Ontario Government’s decisions. As per the new budget, the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission will begin pre-qualifying operators that are hoping to enter the next wave of license applications. Pre-qualification will include; the payment of a fee or obtaining a letter of credit, financial information, criminal and other background checks and information confirming lease or ownership interests in potential store locations.
The first ever retail locations began opening as of April first in Ontario, with lines stretching along the streets of Toronto, Burlington, Ottawa and many more. Although the current rollout has seen relative success, the PC’s continue to pressure the federal government to address supply issues. Ultimately a system would have to be in place to further track new supply, therefore ensuring there is an incentivized and predictable supply of Recreational Cannabis. “For anyone who might be disappointed in the initial number of stores, I would say that we must remember that legalization is a process, not an act.” – Says Allan Rewak, the executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada.
Coat-tailing Thursday’s budget proposal are other pressing alcohol-related issues for Ontario, such as a removal of the laws withholding booze to be sold at sporting events or consumed in public areas. Between the Cannabis Cap being lifted and a designation for consuming alcohol in certain public places, the proposal seems to be progressive on some pressing issues for the people of Ontario. Stay tuned for further updates on this story.
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