Ontario has 'made no decisions' on how it will sell marijuana

Ontario's government has yet to decide how legalized recreational marijuana will be sold in the province, although Ottawa plans to give the provinces control over distribution.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has previously said distributing pot through LCBO 'makes a lot of sense'

Under new legislation coming in April, the federal government will license marijuana producers but the provinces will have the right to decide how it is distributed and sold, and at what price. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ontario's government has yet to decide how or where legalized recreational marijuana will be sold in the province, although Ottawa plans to give the provinces control over distribution.  

CBC News revealed on Sunday that the federal government is preparing to bring in legislation soon to decriminalize pot by July 2018.

CBC News has also learned that provincial governments will have the power to set the price of marijuana, to decide how it is distributed, and to set the age limit for purchasers, which must be a minimum of 18. 

At Queen's Park on Monday, cabinet ministers were peppered with questions from reporters about the pot sales regime in Ontario, but offered nothing definitive.

"All those policy options are on the table," said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, when asked about age limits and sales locations. "We have not made any decisions."

He said nothing has been ruled out in terms of potential sales locations, including the government-run LCBO liquor stores, pharmacies, or private pot shops. 

"We're looking at all policy options that will ensure that we have regulated use of cannabis in the province of Ontario," Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told reporters Monday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The government is doing "very detailed analysis of all policy options," said Naqvi, with an emphasis on protecting youth, public health, road safety, and harm reduction. 

Finance Minister Charles Sousa promised decisions will be announced "when the time is right" after the federal Liberals have put forward their legislation.

"We want to protect children, we want to protect the public, we want to ensure that we curb crime," Sousa told reporters on Monday. "We'll assess what the other provinces are doing as well and determine how best to proceed."  

Premier Kathleen Wynne has indicated she thinks ​selling marijuana through the LCBO's distribution network "makes a lot of sense."

But a federal task force has recommended against selling marijuana in the same location as alcohol. It is unclear whether the provincial government accepts that recommendation, although Sousa said the government is taking it to heart. 

'Highly unlikely' LCBOs will sell pot: analyst

The legislation will be announced during the week of April 10 and will broadly follow the recommendations of the task force, which was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan, CBC News has learned.

An independent policy expert says a provincial Crown corporation will no doubt be heavily involved in regulating the sale of marijuana, but don't expect to be able to buy pot in liquor stores.

"I think it's highly unlikely that we'll ever see a scenario where cannabis is sold in a retail setting side-by-side next to alcohol," said Omar Khan, vice president of public affairs with Hill and Knowlton Strategies Canada.   

In an interview with CBC News on Monday, Khan said revenue is not going to drive Ontario's policy on pot distribution. 

Omar Khan, vice president public affairs for Hill and Knowlton Strategies Canada. (Twitter)

"I don't think that anybody expects this, at least in the early stages, to be a huge cash cow for government," said Khan, who previously served as chief of staff to an Ontario health minister and attorney general. "The main objective is going to be to take this out of the hands of organized crime and to ensure that minors and others who shouldn't be accessing this don't have access to it." 

At least 10 provincial ministers are involved in a working group that's trying to establish how legalization will affect the province and what Ontario's marijuana policies should be.

"I have grave concerns about the impact on road safety," said Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca on Monday. 

He said police forces are still unable to conduct accurate roadside tests for drug-impaired driving.

"We are still working with a number of partners on the technology," Del Duca told reporters. "We've been calling on the feds over the last number of months to develop a system that's reliable."  


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