Ontario's plan to sell and distribute recreational pot exclusively through a network of government-operated stores could lock in the dominance of the country's large-scale licensed marijuana producers and weed craft growers out of the market, industry experts said Friday.
Aphria's chief executive Vic Neufeld said Ontario's plan - the first province to announce its approach - helped bring some much-needed clarity to the future landscape of the recreational marijuana market.
"As we build up a safe, responsible channel for recreational cannabis, our twin goal will be stopping the sale of illegal, unregulated, and unsafe cannabis", Naqvi said at a press conference in Toronto.
Forty cannabis stores will be up and running when recreational marijuana becomes legal across the country next July, Sousa said, with another 40 opening within the next twelve months. "Let me be clear: These illegal pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down".
In B.C., many municipalities, led by Vancouver and Victoria, have chosen to create bylaws to regulate these pot shops - choosing to ticket rather than raid these locations and try to keep them at least 300 metres from schools and other dispensaries.
Ronan Levy, a director of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, which operates two London offices to dispense medical marijuana prescriptions, said he believes there will still be a place for medical marijuana in the market. He says he understands each province will not have an identical approach to cannabis, but adds "we can not have vastly different frameworks, particularly for provinces that are neighbours".
But Fraser also thinks the decision not to legalize private retailers was the easiest path to take politically. "It is very hard to keep up with your school work if you smoke a lot of marijuana", he said. "Dispensaries will fill that void where the government is slow online, slow on retail", he said.
"It's very reasonable for local governments to expect some of the funds generated be redirected to communities to deal with the social cost and challenges" of making pot more available, London Mayor Matt Brown said. However, the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union is opposed to private sales and is pushing for weed to be sold through government liquor stores.
Online sales, officials say, would involve ID checks and signatures at the customer's door. In B.C., where the City of Vancouver has already moved to regulate the stores instead of shutting them down, "there seems to have nearly been an acceptance that dispensaries are part of our future", she said. "I suspect we would probably be looking at other options".
On Friday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said the federal government will spend $274 million to bolster law enforcement and border efforts to "detect and deter" drug-impaired driving and enforce the proposed cannabis legalization and regulation.