Province's pot plan is too rigid, says Brantford mayor

Chris Friel, who's the mayor of Brantford, says the province's pot plan shuts out small players from potential economic growth.

'They just guaranteed the black market will thrive,' says Chris Friel

Chris Friel, mayor of Brantford, says the province should allow small businesses to sell marijuana. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The mayor of Brantford is slamming the province's plan to manage the sale of marijuana, saying it shuts out small businesses and farmers from a potentially enormous economic opportunity.

"You are bringing in legalized (marijuana), the largest potential cash crop, and you have industrialized it," Chris Friel told CBC News. "What about the generations of farmers who are looking for alternate crops? What opportunity was available for them?"

The province announced on Friday that the LCBO is set to oversee the sale of recreational marijuana through an online ordering service and several standalone stores.

The proposed minimum age to use, purchase and possess recreational marijuana is 19.

Friel said the plan limits consumer choice and introduces accessibility problems, and stated that "(the province) just guaranteed the black market will thrive, particularly in the rural areas."

Brantford mayor Chris Friel says the pot plan limits consumer choice and will help the black market thrive. (Reg Beaudry/ urbanicity)

He hoped the province would use a model similar to how alcohol is retailed where he said there are opportunities for smaller businesses to participate through operating craft breweries.

"The only people who are going to benefit from this are multi-millionaires who can afford to be able to get into industrial production of marijuana," he said.

He also added that interpreting the new laws will be difficult for local law enforcement because municipalities were not involved in the conversation with regards to regulation.

'Cultural change' not considered

Friel said Ontario's announcement overlooked the cultural change that's set to come along with the legalization of marijuana.

He said that health education needs to be included in the plan at the start, especially for people who may not have considered using marijuana recreationally before.

"Put the education out there for people to understand so they can make their own decisions about what they want to do as adults in this province," he said.

"We have to fit it into our cultures, our communities in a way that we're comfortable with."

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