Ontario's online pot store still under wraps days before legalization

As Ontarians wait for the launch of the online Ontario Cannabis Store, (OCS) it's only a matter of googling to find an online pot store where you can select a product, pay and have it delivered, already. The catch is that it's not legal. As for the legal option to be operated by the provincial government, it's not known what the provincial OCS retail site will look like. Right now it's being used as a spot for news releases and FAQs.

When it is launched, province is promising secure storage of consumers' personal data

Governments at both the provincial and federal levels are ramping up their preparations ahead of the legalization of cannabis set for October 17th. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe Mahoney (Joe Mahoney/Canadian Press)

As Ontarians wait for the launch of the online Ontario Cannabis Store, (OCS) it's only a matter of googling to find an online pot store where you can select a product, pay and have it delivered, already. The catch is that it's not legal.

As for the legal option to be operated by the provincial government, it's not known what the provincial  OCS retail site will look like. Right now it's being used as a spot for news releases and FAQs. 

A couple of weeks ago, the OCS Chief of Communications promised media a preview but nothing has materialized despite emails and phone messages and legalization a few days away on October 17th. 

What is known is that previous suppliers of medical marijuana have signed on with the province to provide recreational marijauna. On the OCS website, it says the future online store will offer products which will initially include dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, as well as a selection of cannabis accessories. Edibles will not be sold until such time as the federal government chooses to make these legal.

The OCS has not outlined how one places an order or pays, but it is promising a "safe, secure online shopping experience for adults 19 and over." It says it will keep purchases confidential and has deliberately chosen methods to protect personal information.

"The OCS will minimize the amount of customer data collected and kept, and will store that data in Canada."

As for delivery, the OCS admits on its website that it is still working on that.

Nickel Belt NDP MP France Gélinas says the public deserves to know more at this late date.
France Gélinas, the NDP MPP for Nickel Belt and the Chief Opposition Whip as well as Health Critic. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

"You figure by now that people would know what websites to go to, how to register to prove age and none of that is available, nothing."

Gélinas says there has been a similar lack of information in the legislature. She says it is almost as though the province doesn't want to be in the business.

''It looks like the government is making this as hard, cumbersome and difficult as possible to buy from the government's own online dispensing and they are really, really pushing the private, for-profit stores they intend to open."

Those storefronts are supposed to open in municipalities who don't opt out in April of next year. The online store will then become a wholesaler to those private retailers.

Little is known about how to go about getting a license or what regulations might be. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney held a news conference Sept. 26 ahead of the bill governing legal pot being introduced in the house. They said anyone with a criminal record and anyone selling before legalization, or to minors won't qualify for a licence. Other details, including distances from schools, are still being worked out.

The amount of interest in selling legal pot has not been gauged. But a cannabis reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press has been keeping an eye on Ontario.

"I think we should be expecting a lot of cannabis stores in Ontario, in the near future," says Solomon Israel. "One number I've seen thrown about is five hundred and a thousand shops, come next April."

As for the decision at the municipal level to opt in or out of the retail stores, that will be made by the mayor and council that will be elected in the October 22nd election. After they're sworn in, they will have two meetings to get briefed and make a decision before the January 22nd deadline

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 09: A participant smokes a marijuana joint while marching in the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Out on the sidewalk in Sudbury, James Quenneville says legalization doesn't really matter to him because he doesn't consume, but he says he has some friends who do. He says they seem lukewarm on using a government-run site saying they already have established suppliers and quick delivery. 

"From what I understand they're either indifferent or just a little excited that at least it'll be easier and more accessible and more accepted than it currently is," says Quenneville.

The Ontario Cannabis Store is expected to be operational on October 17.