Ontario's pot plan will not discourage the street sale of unsafe weed, critics warn
Business owners say they're planning ahead despite the province's crackdown on illegal dispensaries
Protesters took to the lawns of Queen's Park Saturday to highlight issues with what they're calling the province's "marijuana monopoly."
"It's unfair that the government that has persecuted us will charge high prices, tax us too high and control our industries," Mark Emery, Toronto's so-called "prince of pot" told CBC Toronto.
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Emery, who says he has been arrested 30 times on cannabis-related charges, argues that the government is "taking the industry away from people who have cultivated it for 50 years."
The province announced its framework to manage the sale and use of marijuana in early September. The plan includes an online ordering service and roughly 150 stand-alone stores.
The government also declared their intent to crack down on illegal pot shops in Ontario.
"If you operate one of these facilities, consider yourself on notice," Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said at a Sept. 6 press conference.
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But critics at the protest, including MPP Jack MacLaren, says the plan to open government-run stores next summer while cracking down on dispensaries undercuts the entire point of legalization.
Without competition, government-run cannabis stores will have no incentive to keep prices low and thus will not be able to discourage the street sale of low quality, unregulated products that are unsafe, the Carleton-Mississippi Mills representative said in an interview.
"It's just a matter of how do we deliver to the consumer at a low price so that we are competitive with the street people." MacLaren said.
He argues that licensing and regulating small businesses will be the best way to ensure safe, low-priced, high-quality weed in the province.
MacLaren says he's not opposed to the government being in the marketplace. Rather, he is just against shutting out small business competition entirely.
Independent cannabis businesses however say they are forging ahead despite the warnings.
"We're preparing as if we were a regulated business because essentially we are, just not in a regulated framework," Clinton Young, CEO of MMJ Canada said.
With files from Lauren Pelley