In a seemingly uncharacteristic decision, the Ontario government has ultimately decided against a for-profit government monopoly on cannabis distribution in the province.
“We’ve decided we’re going to approach cannabis legalization in this province without thinking about the bottom line. Those dollar bills? We want them to go back to the people,” remarked Minister of Finance Charles Sousa in today’s press conference.
Ontario will run its own centralized, non-profit cannabis distribution network, anticipating 100 stores in the first two years. They will additionally allow up to 300 permits for non-profit entities to open and operate cannabis retail stores. “Also, we will mandate that each store, including our own, donate at least 40% of their profits to local initiatives to ensure the people and the communities harmed by cannabis prohibition are given the full benefits of legalization—this is our number one priority moving forward.”
This new take on the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will involve a much more “chill vibe,” and a heavy mandate focused on education and harm reduction. “Think of them more as education centers, where adult Ontarians can access cannabis responsibly, enjoy their retail experience, and have all the resources and materials they may need,” Premier Wynne explained, “but, at the same time, they’ll look around and know the vibe is real.”
The news spread through social media quickly after the early morning conference, with the original announcement being shared over one million times. While responses varied, local elementary school teacher Vivian Von Frash was happy with the news, calling it “the most damn sensible thing I’ve heard from that woman in the last five years!”
Additionally, the Ontario government announced it will be redirecting the $40 million it recently promised to law enforcement to education and reparations in Ontario communities instead. Some of this funding will go towards efforts to update cannabis education curricula in elementary and high schools, with some additional support for Ontario universities and colleges to implement health programing and education. Other funds will be put directly back into communities that have the highest number of cannabis-related arrests, as well as low income neighbourhoods, to help establish after school programming, community education around cannabis, funding for legal aid, and support for local community projects.
In the future, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the crown corporation that retails and distributes alcohol in the province, will also be transitioning its business model to non-profit after 91 years of for-profit operation.
“We’re really excited to serve the people of this fine province and really put Canadians’ health first,” said LCBO president, George Soleas. Starting with the transformation of 20 flagship stores, it will slowly convert its 651 retail stores to align more closely to the model and approach of the OCS. This will also come with provincial controls on advertising, and the LCBO will mandate some purchasing limits, as well as warning labels that detail health risks such as cancer, and mandatory education and harm minimization information for new visitors. “It’s time we face the music,” Wynne said to applause. But when she started to suggest an attempt to raise the age limit for alcohol access, the crowd quickly grew agitated and the press conference was ended early.
The government will announce further details in the coming weeks.
* 40% of all proceeds from verp go towards educating children in inner cities about the risks and benefits associated with satire.