Ontario will sell recreational cannabis online only when it is legalized Oct. 17 and allow “tightly regulated” private retail stores into the weed business by next April 1.
The sales model from Premier Doug Ford’s new Progressive Conservative government marks a shift from the previous Liberal administration’s plan for 150 brick-and-mortar Ontario Cannabis Stores by 2020. The first four were slated for Toronto, Guelph, Kingston and Thunder Bay.
“The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said in a statement.
“Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”
The province will soon begin consultations on rules that retailers will have to follow — including those on hours of operation and guidelines for training staff, Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney said.
They promised a zero-tolerance policy with “severely escalating fines” for any pot retailers operating in illicit markets on the side.
Retailers must buy their supplies from federally licensed producers and all stores will have to sell products in plain packaging.
Dispensaries now deemed illegal will remain outside the law — but officials said in a background briefing that it is yet to be determined if they will be eligible to apply to become licensed retailers. Criteria have not yet been set.
The online sales will be through the Ontario Cannibis Stores website with age verification to make sure buyers are the legal age of 19, and proof of identity will be required on delivery.
Products will likely be sold with an official seal “to help consumers identify legitimate retailers,” a statement said.
Municipalities will be able to reject cannabis stores within their boundaries.
Five provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland — plan to allow private stores to sell recreational cannabis.
Officials said Ontario is looking to them for best practices this province could adopt.