Ontario to allow private retailers to sell cannabis, report says

The Ontario government will reportedly allow private stores to sell marijuana once recreational cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17.

Government will still control the distribution, manage online sales

The anticipated move by the newly elected PC government is a major reversal of the policy developed by the previous Liberal regime. (Ron Ward/Canadian Press )

The Ontario government will reportedly allow private stores to sell marijuana once recreational cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17.

A source in the provincial government told the Globe and Mail that Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney are expected to make an announcement as early as next week to outline a plan to let the private sector own and operate cannabis shops.

The source, who spoke on condition of not being identified, also indicated that the government would still control the distribution of the product to the stores and manage online sales.

The previous Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne had planned to give the Liquor Control Board of Ontario a monopoly on the sale of recreational cannabis, with 40 stores slated to open this year under an LCBO subsidiary called the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS).

The new system would mirror the Alberta model, which will allow for privately run cannabis stores to sell marijuana with licences granted by the liquor commission.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has already indicated that he was considering the private sector, saying in late June that he doesn't believe "government should stick their nose into everything."

A spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Finance wouldn't comment on the details but said the province will be ready by the time marijuana is legal in October.

Jodie Emery has been dubbed 'the pot princess' through her and her husband's cannabis activism. (CBC)

Surprised but excited

Meanwhile, pot activist Jodie Emery is expressing both excitement and surprise at the report, saying she thought it would take more time to get to this point. She said 

"I'm ready to jump on this opportunity to be able to provide private retail sales in a free market," she told CBC Toronto.

"I'm very excited about private retail but only if it's private retail that's equitable and fair for everyone. Private retail for big business with connections to government isn't really what Ontario needs."

The Amsterdam model

Emery said legalization of cannabis should be about job creation and tax revenue generation.

The pot activist recently opened a hemp-themed coffee shop — Jodie's Joint — at Kensington Market, where she hopes to stock shelves with cannabis along with coffee.

Noting that this model has been successful in Amsterdam, Emery said Toronto is more than ready for similar outlets.

"I think adults should be able to get coffee and cannabis and consume it in a safe space. So this café is designed to be that sort of model," she said.

On the issue of the production of cannabis, Emery said it's now controlled at the federal level and that too needs to change.

"A big problem across Canada is that the provincial governments who are in charge of wholesale and retail won't have enough product from the federally approved growers," she explained.

"I'm hoping that the Ontario government will lobby the federal government to allow farmers in Ontario to grow cannabis for this market."

With files from CBC News