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Local entrepreneurs could feel the impacts of provincial pot shops

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

As the province prepares for the imminent legalization of pot by planning to sell the product from LCBO like stores in 2018, it could have unforeseen impacts on smaller entrepreneurs looking to make a business in the weed marketplace.

Earlier this month, the province of Ontario announced that when the federal government legalizes marijuana, currently set for July of 2018, it will only be sold in stores similar to the current LCBO locations and through an online order service.

The province estimates that 40 locations will open initially, with plans to double that number by July of 2019 and increasing to 150 by 2020.

The sale of the drug will be restricted to those 19 and older and will be prohibited in public places.

Stricter measures are also being put in place to crack down on illicit dispensaries.

“The province will pursue a coordinated and proactive enforcement strategy, working with municipalities, local police services, the OPP and the federal government to help shut down these illegal operations,” a release from the province reads.

“We are committed to getting this transition right,” states Charles Sousa, the Minister of Finance. “When it comes to retail distribution, the LCBO has the expertise, experience and insight to ensure careful control and cannabis, helping us to discourage illicit market activity and see that illegal dispensaries are shut down.”

The planned approach via an LCBO-like model has not been welcomed by everyone in the industry.

For Mark Ivancicevic, a medial marijuana activist and owner of Greenvalley Wellness in Whitby, says that overall, he’s disappointed with the current model, and that the impact on other businesses, like vapour lounges, is still unclear.

With that said, he says its clear the province is looking for the easiest way to monetize the drug.

“I truly think that really, at the end of the day, it’s the revenue streams, it’s the money,” he says. “They look at the ability to do it one way or the other and they obviously see, through their own business plans that it’s much more valuable to the province for them to reap the rewards, have that monopoly if you will, and not allow for private entrepreneurs to be able to reap the profits.”

However, Ivancicevic believes that, similar to the regulations around the sale of alcohol and the recent expansion into grocery stores, there will be some exceptions and changes moving forward.

“I think that there will be some loosening as time goes on, but I think that really, we have to wait and see,” he says.