Doug Ford, the freshly anointed leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the older brother of the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, has hinted that he wants to explore the idea of private-sector cannabis sales in Canada's most populous province.
During a Tuesday morning interview with Ford on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, host Robyn Bresnahan asked Ford about his plans for "regulation and enforcement of marijuana."
"I've always been open to a fair market, and I let the market dictate," said Ford. "I don't like government controlling anything."
"Does that mean that you would privatize pot stores?" asked Bresnahan.
"Well, let's take a look at it," said Ford. "Again, we're going to come up with a pretty good policy on that, and we're going to see."
"I'm open to a free market, and I'm going to consult with our caucus, and we'll be able to come up with a very strong game plan," added Ford, who will be facing off against Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in a provincial election on June 7.
It's entirely conceivable that the Ontario PCs could include private-sector cannabis sales in their upcoming election platform, framing the Wynne government's planned cannabis monopoly as an anti-business, big-government boondoggle.
Given what appears to be a mostly negative public response to the $650,000 "Ontario Cannabis Store" branding released by the Ontario government last week, that kind of campaign promise from the Tories could be a political winner.
On the other hand, campaigning in part on a private cannabis sales platform could be politically risky for Doug Ford — it's the perfect way for the press and his political opponents to remind voters of Ford's alleged past as a marijuana dealer.
According to a 2013 investigative report by the Globe and Mail, Doug Ford was a well-known hashish-monger in his hometown of Etobicoke, Ont. in the 1980s.
"Ten people who grew up with Doug Ford — a group that includes two former hashish suppliers, three street-level drug dealers and a number of casual users of hash — have described in a series of interviews how for several years Mr. Ford was a go-to dealer of hash," said the report by Greg McArthur and Shannon Kari.
"These sources had varying degrees of knowledge of his activities: Some said they purchased hash directly from him, some said they supplied him, while others said they observed him handling large quantities of the drug."
Doug Ford denied those claims at the time, calling then-Globe editor John Stackhouse "a disgusting human being" in the process.
CBC Ottawa's Robyn Bresnahan asked Ford about those allegations, and why he never sued the newspaper if the allegations were false.
Ford suggested he couldn't afford to sue "one of the richest people in the entire world," perhaps referring to media magnate David Thomson, who owns the Globe and Mail through his family's holding company Woodbridge.
The allegation that he ever sold illegal drugs, Ford told Bresnahan on Tuesday, is "absolutely, 100 per cent false."
But the internet is already having a field day with the idea: "Doug Ford says he knows how to sell weed better than Kathleen Wynne," screams the fake news headline on satirical cannabis news website verp.ca.
The political attack ads practically write themselves.
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Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web
- Don't try this at home: An Ontario man just got six years in prison after a 2017 explosion in his home cannabis extraction lab killed his neighbour, reports Amanda Siebert for the Georgia Straight.
- "Let's embrace cannabis": In an op-ed that ran in today's Sun newspapers, former Harper-era cabinet minister Joe Oliver argues in favour of medical cannabis. The warm embrace might have something to do with the fact that Oliver is now chairman of an Israeli-Canadian cannabis extracts company.
- On the map: Cannabis is now legal in California, but dispensary-mapping platform Weedmaps is still listing illegal pot shops. John Schroyer reports for Marijuana Business Daily.