Should the LCBO Sell Cannabis in Halton?
Long before Doug Ford's PC government took power, the plan was to allow the LCBO to sell legal cannabis in standalone cannabis stores operated by the provincial alcohol retailer.
The current government backed off on that model and instead invited private entities to bid on licences and open non-government retail stores in the municipalities that allow them. This approach prompted some cities—including Mississauga—to take a "wait and see" approach to private cannabis shops, citing the change in policy as an area of concern.
Now, the union that represents LCBO workers is asking the Ford government to let the brand compete in the cannabis market, arguing that the underground market is still alive and well in Ontario.
"The private sector has had more than a year to set up the legal cannabis system, but has failed us at every turn," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a statement.
"We still have too few stores and there have even been instances of companies falling prey to organized crime. It's time to clean up this mess and put the good of our kids and our communities ahead of profiteers and gangsters. It's time to let the LCBO do what it does best: sell a controlled substance in a responsible way that ensures maximum revenue for our vital public services."
Thomas says the province's move to take legal cannabis out of the hands of the LCBO and into the hands of private retailers has led to "more chaos and more crime."
He also said the private retailer model has left cannabis users with fewer options, as the stores are few and far between.
Thomas says that under the previous government's plan to sell cannabis publicly, there would now be up to 80 cannabis stores open across the province.
As of now, there are still less than 25.
"Failure isn't a strong enough word for Mr. Ford's privatization scheme - it's an utter disaster," said OPSEU first vice-president and treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida in a statement.
"The premier chose to give his pals in the private sector a big cut of cannabis profits, and the people of Ontario are paying the price."
Almeida says it's ironic that a government that champions competition is forbidding one of the industry's strongest competitors from entering the market.
"The LCBO is tried, tested, and true," said Almeida. "By preventing it from competing, the premier is making it painfully clear that he's not actually interested in competition. He's interested in rewarding his corporate backers and party insiders."
Thomas says that municipalities that have opted out of private cannabis stores would be more likely to accept cannabis shops run by the LCBO.
"Polling and experience show us that Ontarians want cannabis retailers that can be trusted to put people over profits," said Thomas. "At the very least, Ford should give municipalities that have opted out of private cannabis the opportunity to say yes to a publicly owned and managed cannabis retailer. Retrofit existing LCBO stores, and it could happen very quickly."
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