How not to legalize cannabis

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This week, the Ontario provincial government got it wrong.

Instead of allowing small businesses and entrepreneurs to apply for permits to sell cannabis with strict regulations at independent retail shops across the province, the Ontario government instead announced that recreational pot would be sold exclusively in LCBO-controlled retail outlets.

The problem is not for producers (legal growers), who in large part don’t care who they sell to. The problem is that this approach will leave a substantial number of consumers who want to purchase legal cannabis without access.

So a few stoners don’t get their product — perhaps not the worst thing to happen right? Wrong. This approach makes the prospect of pushing organized crime and other undesirables out of the market a distant pipe dream. Who will fill the spaces between the legitimate weed dealers? Probably the same folks who supply pot now.

Pricing the underworld out of the marijuana market was supposedly at the crux of the federal Liberal platform.

The truth is that lots of people are nervous about legalization. By keeping a firm grasp on who sells pot and how they sell it, the Liberals can say they struck a balanced approach to introducing it in Ontario.

Unless the provincial government makes it easier for Canadians to access recreational pot after July 1, 2018, the black market will continue to thrive even after prohibition ends.

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