Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Ontario's never-ending cannabis story continues

These two marijuana-themed mascots celebrated legalization in a Toronto park on Oct. 17. Little did they know how Ontario's cannabis legalization efforts would turn out. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press files) (CP)

These two marijuana-themed mascots celebrated legalization in a Toronto park on Oct. 17. Little did they know how Ontario's cannabis legalization efforts would turn out. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press files)

Ontarians who were hoping for a legal cannabis store bonanza in 2019 should adjust their expectations: the entire province will only have 25 government-licensed cannabis stores by April, 2019.

The Ontario government's decision to limit the initial number of store licences is just the latest tale of woe in the province's ongoing cannabis saga. Let's review.

Originally, the provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne planned to launch government weed storefronts under the anodyne name, Ontario Cannabis Store. Then came candidate Doug Ford, who pondered opening up cannabis shops to the private sector instead.

After being voted into power, Ford's Progressive Conservative government did just that, downsizing the OCS into an online-only retailer, but delaying the rollout of privately operated brick-and-mortar storefronts so the new government had time to remake the province's cannabis laws in its own image.

But new regulations show the province is limiting the initial set of store licences to just 25. An unlimited number of licences was out of the question due to ongoing supply shortages of legal cannabis, said Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. The Ontario government described the shortages as "a national issue that demands an immediate response from Justin Trudeau and the federal government."

Ontario will hold a special lottery in January to determine who gets one of the the precious 25 licences, leading to speculation amongst the Weed Twitterati that any lottery winners might try to immediately sell their licences to bigger players for a healthy profit. People who already leased space for cannabis stores in anticipation of unlimited licences are left holding the bag.

In the meantime, some local governments in Ontario have rolled up their sleeves to protect their residents from legal cannabis stores. Politicians in the large Toronto-area suburbs of Mississauga and Markham have opted out of cannabis retail entirely. The mayor of Windsor wants to do the same.

Toronto and Ottawa councillors, however, chose to join in the legal cannabis regime by allowing stores in those cities.

Taken together, the latest developments in Ontario suggest a future where access to legal cannabis in the most populous province in Canada is uneven at best.

Cannabis users in some major Ontario cities will be able to buy weed at stores without breaking the law, although they're almost certain to face huge lineups. (For example, just five of the 25 initial store licences will be allocated to Toronto, which is home to nearly three million people.)

But adults in places that have opted out of cannabis stores will have to travel far to get their legal marijuana, or order it through the government's online store.

At the very least, Ontarians can still grow their own without violating provincial laws. At least, they could, if there were anywhere to get legal cannabis seeds or clones.

One licensed cannabis producer has finally started selling cannabis clones to recreational consumers — but only in Newfoundland.


New on The Leaf

  • Licensed grower Bonify issued a voluntary recall for some marijuana sold in Saskatchewan, citing a problem with paperwork meant to prove the drug passed laboratory testing. (Trevor Hagan / Bloomberg files) (Bloomberg Bloomberg)

    Licensed grower Bonify issued a voluntary recall for some marijuana sold in Saskatchewan, citing a problem with paperwork meant to prove the drug passed laboratory testing. (Trevor Hagan / Bloomberg files)

    A nudge towards the legal market: Hundreds of people signed onto a virtual seminar to learn about applying for small-scale cannabis production licences.
  • Return to sender: Licensed cannabis producer Bonify has issued a recall for some of its product that was sold in Saskatchewan. It's the second marijuana recall since legalization.
  • Driving weed from point A to point B: Dear Herb explains provincial laws around transporting weed in a car.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered Vancounver's illicit cannabis dispensaries to close. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files) (CP)

    The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered Vancounver's illicit cannabis dispensaries to close. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files)

    Bong thong guy sues cops: An Ontario medical marijuana user who gained local media attention for protesting the police seizure of his bong in a bright green thong is now suing the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
  • Grim news for Vancouver dispensaries: A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that Vancouver can immediately shut down unlicensed cannabis stores.
  • From bad to worse: Halifax police investigate a home break-in, only to arrest the homeowner for growing cannabis.

What Next

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