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PC cannabis plan on target, advocate says

Timeframe for municipalities to opt out of hosting retail shops still unclear

Local medicinal marijuana advocate Marko Ivancicevic believes the Ford government’s plans for legalization put Ontario on the right track.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

With six weeks left on the calendar, a figurative cloud of smoke still surrounds the legalization of marijuana.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a date of Oct. 17 for the drug to become legal in Canada.

Recently, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that privately owned stores would handle cannabis sales.

This was a turnabout from plans of the previous Liberal government to open government-run shops in the vein of the LCBO.

The province will oversee distribution and plans to launch an online retail store in April 2019.

Marko Ivancicevic, a local medical marijuana advocate, says he is pleased with the PC Party’s changes.

“The way it is going to be worked out is better how it is now than under the Wynne government,” he says. “The Liberal plans to unroll 40 stores and have a monopoly, it was a very incorrect political move.”

Ivancicevic says the Liberal plan would have “created a lot of barriers by not allowing the private industry to be involved.”

“It was a real black mark on a lot of work,” he says.

But while he applauds Ford’s plans, Ivancicevic admits he is unsure how they will unfold, although he can’t blame the current government for that.

“I’ve got to be very honest, we know everything takes time and there is a political process,” he adds. “We have to go off the understanding that the Ford government is picking up the mess of the Liberals, specifically on this plan.”

Oshawa Mayor John Henry has repeatedly stated he feels a lot of the pressure from the legalization of marijuana has been dumped into the lap of local municipalities. It’s a sentiment Ivancicevic agrees with.

“I feel the municipalities have really taken the shortest end of the stick. A lot of the work is going to rest on them.”

During August’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario meetings, the province told delegates municipalities would have the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of hosting retail marijuana stores.

Ivancicevic said he is in favour of this option, but believes it shouldn’t just be a decision for politicians to make.

“If they are going to do something to do that, it should be a ballot question,” he says. “They really should go through some type of process. I feel the prospective of a municipality having the power to say no – it’s a pretty big power.”
And while he is in support of giving municipalities the option, he believes it could have some negative consequences.

“Having various municipalities opt out is going to have an impact on them. They are missing out on money and jobs,” he says. “I think it would become a big issue in those municipalities and it will be the other municipalities benefiting.”

Looking at the federal side of the issue, Ivancicevic says he believes things are pretty set.

While a federal election is looming next year, he doesn’t believe much will change on that front either.

“I don’t think the federal Conservatives are in the position to win the election,” he says. “I’m pretty confident that any plan that has been in place will remain, and plans will be under the Liberal government.”

Each of Canada’s provinces and territories have been directed to develop their own plans to facilitate legal marijuana, and so far, Ivancicevic says he “can’t say there is one specific provincial plan that is the best one.”

“I think if you take elements from all of them, you would have a perfect plan,” he says.

Once legalization is finally implemented, Ivancicevic says it will be a victory for many people.

“We sit down and we are counting the days. There are really a lot of people who are worried about using cannabis,” he says. “They’ve kept it in the closet, and they can’t wait for that date, because they won’t have to feel like criminals any longer.

“For business, it’s very much the same. This is going to be the next big financial bubble, and will be a multi-billion dollar industry,” Ivancicevic states.

He does feel there has not been enough communication shared about the process.

“I don’t feel that there has been enough dissemination of information between all three levels of government. More effort should have been put into getting information in the hands of people, but that’s always been an issue with cannabis in general.”