By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
There are many options on the table for the province to consider when it comes to the future distribution and sale of marijuana, but for one local advocate, Ontario is cutting it a little close.
In recent weeks, the province has been gathering feedback from Ontarians through an online survey and a consultation paper in a process that is ongoing until July 31.
However, Marko Ivancicevic, medical marijuana advocate and owner of Green Valley Wellness, believes it may not be enough.
“The big picture is, they don’t have a lot of time,” says Ivancicevic. “I will applaud Kathleen (Wynne) and the provincial Liberals for wanting to move ahead with this consultation process so to speak, albeit, giving a two-week timeline to be able to gather the opinions of Ontarians, I don’t think is really a long enough time span to be able to get the type of information that they seek.”
In particular, the provincial government is looking for opinions on how they should handle legalization in a way that “protects youth, prevents harm and ensures that Ontario’s roads continue to be among the safest in North America.”
The federal government’s Cannabis Act, introduced in April, if passed, will legalize marijuana across Canada by 2018. Those plans require the provincial governments to establish methods for distributing, selling and regulation.
“The legalization of cannabis will mark a big change in our country. Here in Ontario, we have some important decisions to make, and with so much at stake, we need to get it right. That’s why we need to hear from the people of Ontario as we develop an approach to legalization that keeps our youth, communities and roads safe,” states Yasir Naqvi, attorney general, in a news release.
Among the possible options for distribution, is a model similar to Ontario’s LCBO stores for the sale of alcohol. Previously a supporter of such a model, Ivancicevic is now uncertain whether such a framework would be successful.
“From a regulatory framework side of things, it’s understandable. I don’t think it’s overall justifiable as to how the distribution system should work moving forward,” he says, noting that with the recent decision by the province to expand the sale of alcohol to places outside the LCBO and Beer Store, it could prove promising for a wider distribution model for marijuana.
“I’m hopeful it’s not going to be set that way. I think that, much like if you look at how the expansion of alcohol sales has worked out, there are many different options for people who want to sell alcohol to be able to do so,” he says. “It isn’t fun and games now, it’s an actual reality now, we’re about to face a distribution system and again, the majority of people in Ontario support something that is outside of the LCBO system.”
A 2016 Forum Research poll found that 35 per cent of respondents preferred for recreational cannabis to be sold in pharmacies, while 25 per cent noted they would prefer dispensaries. Less than a quarter of those questioned (20 per cent) preferred a system where marijuana is sold at LCBO locations across the province.
Ivancicevic says he can see a system that would allow vendors to register for a distribution license either through the province or their local municipalities.
It is at the local level where changes will be seen the most, he says.
“In all honesty, when it comes down to it, the municipalities are really the ones that are going to have to deal with it the most,” Ivancicevic says.
The online survey remains open until July 31 and can be found at ontario.ca/cannabis.