News / Toronto

LCBO will run 150 standalone marijuana stores when weed is legalized

Premier Kathleen Wynne is cornering the recreational marijuana market by restricting sales to 150 LCBO-run stores, sources say.

Ontario reportedly plans to open dozens of storefronts across the province to manage the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana after the federal government legalizes its recreational use. Production staff harvest marijuana plants inside the flowering room at Harvest One Cannabis Inc. in Duncan, B.C., on Friday, August 4, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Ontario reportedly plans to open dozens of storefronts across the province to manage the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana after the federal government legalizes its recreational use. Production staff harvest marijuana plants inside the flowering room at Harvest One Cannabis Inc. in Duncan, B.C., on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is cornering the recreational marijuana market by restricting sales to 150 LCBO-run stores, sources say.

The standalone cannabis outlets – physically separate from existing provincial-owned liquor stores – and a government-controlled website will be the only place weed can lawfully be sold after Ottawa legalizes it on July 1.

In a move that will close scores of illegal weed “dispensaries” that now dot Ontario cities, the provincial government will limit the sale of cannabis to weed grown by producers licenced by Health Canada.

Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase marijuana.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi are unveiling the plan Friday after Queen’s Park after months of work from Ontario’s cannabis secretariat.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which runs the province’s 651 liquor stores – using workers who are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union – will oversee all retail sales and run the online service.

“This approach will ensure that there will be only one legal retail distributor for recreational cannabis in Ontario, and alcohol and cannabis are not sold alongside each other,” a source said.

There will be 80 LCBO weed stores in place across the province by July 1, 2019 and another 70 by 2020.

Online sales will begin next July after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government legalizes recreational marijuana.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has long said she wants the LCBO to have a role in the distribution of recreational marijuana.

Wynne has noted the booze monopoly has staff trained to keep underage drinkers from buying alcohol and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.

The premier was an early opponent of the illegal storefront weed shops – some of which are supplied by or operated by organized crime gangs – that have popped up in cities like Toronto.

It is expected that Friday’s announcement will provide police and municipalities with the clarity they have been seeking to close them down.

The government is also looking at new road safety rules to curb impaired driving.

Other jurisdictions that have legalized weed have seen a spike in such offences, so the province will try to get in front of that with heftier penalties and new testing machines.

Currently, the only legally available marijuana is prescribed by a medical doctor and comes from 58 producers who are licensed and inspected by Health Canada.

It can only be delivered directly to patients’ doors through registered mail by Canada Post.

The existing storefront “dispensaries,” which Toronto Mayor John Tory has long opposed, have nothing to do with the federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.

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