Ontario's pot plan an 'extremely disappointing strategy' Waterloo economist says

University of Waterloo economics professor Anindya Sen says waiting until next spring to open retail pot stores in Ontario 'is just bad policy.'

'This is just bad policy,' Anindya Sen says of Ontario's plan to sell pot

Three large jars full of marijuana buds sits on the counter at a Vancouver marijuana dispensary. University of Waterloo economics professor Anindya Sen says it's a mistake for the Ontario government to wait until next spring to open retail stores. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Ontario's plan to sell pot through private retailers is a good one but waiting until next spring to allow weed to be sold in stores is a mistake, a University of Waterloo economics professor says.

Anindya Sen said some people who want pot will not want to wait a few days for it to arrive in the mail. As well, the province may find its system overloaded with orders once pot becomes legal on Oct. 17.

"If we have a system where there's no retail stores … everybody has to access a product online legally," he said in an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"There's going to be thousands of orders every day, and people will expect a speedy delivery. If it's not a speedy delivery, then what will happen is that they can easily access the black market."

He said people who already have a dealer would be able to get pot within a couple of hours.

'Just bad policy'

In order to make sure Ontarians get their pot through the online store, "the province will need to hire an army of drivers who show up and deliver you product and get your signature. That's really inefficient, and I think it's kind of counter to what the government wants," he said.

"This is going to be very costly. I think this actually will help the black market get entrenched. This is just bad policy," he said.

Brian Vendramin agreed. He's a business professor at Cambrian College in Sudbury and told CBC News the province will need to be set up for the onslaught of orders.

"We need to make sure we're not ordering pizzas here," he said.

He said the province will also have to make sure those ordering online aren't under the legal age.

"I'm hoping the government will have all that in place as they look at that important channel before they go to the retail trade," he said.

Some people may be willing to wait a few days to order pot online and have it delivered, but others may turn to the black market for faster service, economics professor Anindya Sen said. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Good service from black market

Sen agreed with the province's plan to not sell pot in stores itself but argued there was no reason the government couldn't regulate existing dispensaries in time for legalization.

Ontario's Finance Minster Vic Fedeli has said there will be a consultation process in the coming months ahead of the province rolling out plans for private sales.

Sen said people tend to like stores because they might have questions about products or might want to seek out advice. It's hard to ask someone a question through an online store.

It's one reason why illegal shops may continue to flourish, he said.

"If people actually do find they get this type of high-quality service from the black market, then why would they ever purchase product legally," he said.

The one concern people may have about going into an illegal dispensary is their privacy.

"Most of these shops actually ask you for some ID and that's something you have to be cognisant about — you giving up your personal details, and there's no guarantee that they have a sufficiently secure system to protect all your details," he said.

But, he said, if a dealer or illegal shop works for a person now, it will still work for them after Oct. 17.

He added, "Once you have a good supplier, why should you switch?"

with files from Carmen Ponciano, CBC Sudbury