Ontario’s New Premier Thinks a Government Marijuana Monopoly is a Bad Idea. He’s Right.

As the world watches Canada put an end to more than 90 years of marijuana prohibition and usher in a legalization framework controlled by the government, some cannabis supporters may see countrywide legalization as a progressive model, while others have condemned the move as misguided and ill-advised.

Many in the Canadian cannabis sector, though, will tell you that legalization has been bittersweet thus far. This light dusting of malaise comes from the knowledge that the Canadian government decided early on it would legalize and place restrictions and control cannabis outright.

Although legalization has brought about a multibillion-dollar industry that will continue to grow, the government now controls every aspect of the industry. The government has authority from when the seed is planted until the moment people are purchasing.

Getting Weed From Your Government Is Pretty Lame

Across the border in the United States, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level but has been legalized for medical and recreational use in many states. Private pot industries in legal states have created a deluge of product offerings, many of which line store shelves ready for purchase. If you can imagine a weed product, chances are someone has already made it (and it’s probably great).  

By contrast, Canada’s medical marijuana market has operated since 2001, and to this day you can get only dried flower and oil sent through the mail in a nondescript container. When recreational cannabis finally goes on sale in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018, flower and oil will be the only products available, with  vape pens and edibles coming sometime in the future.

Further, the packaging restrictions enforced by the Canadian federal government make cannabis look so dangerous, new users might think they were handling plutonium, or, at the very least cigarettes, as marketing legend Terry O’Reilly pointed out to Marijuana.com. This Orwellian level of control s has Canadians (who were consuming cannabis during the era of prohibition anyway) shaking their heads in disbelief.

New Progressive Conservative Premier Should Introduce A Free Marijuana Market

The recent report that the Ontario government may allow private retail dispensaries as well as government-owned storefronts is more refreshing than an ocean swim on a hot summer day.

Ontarians voted in Premier Doug Ford on June 12, 2018. The leader of the Progressive Conservative party — and the brother of the late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford — who, like his sibling, was very polarizing with the voter base but actually seems like a fabulous choice for the province when it comes to the cannabis industry for his belief that the market should be open to the private sector.

During the election campaign in March 2018, Ford told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning, “I don’t believe in the government sticking their hands in our lives all the time. I believe in letting the market dictate.”

This is a stark contrast with his predecessor, Liberal Party Premier Kathleen Wynne, who during her tenure saw the first government-owned marijuana store located less than a kilometer from a school in east Toronto. She prompted her staff to investigate the decision-making process of how marijuana shop locations on designated. Wynne also called Ford’s Ottawa Morning comments about privatization “reckless,” according to the Toronto Star, and added that her focus was on the safety of children.

On CTV News Ottawa, Ford wasted little time expressing his view on the matter clearly: “I don’t like monopolies. I don’t like government being involved in something the private sector can handle.”

Strangely enough, it remains unclear why the government of Ontario agreed to a monopoly in the first place.

Naturally, the producers working in the gray or black market would like to see private dispensaries and less government control in the sector due to the incredible amount of capital and oversight that is currently required to be in the legal Canadian industry.

Ford was expected to announce in early August 2018 some sort of inclusion for private retail cannabis in Ontario. And while polls indicate that Ontarians were split on whether the market should be government-owned or a private retail model, as a citizen of Canada’s most populated province, I for one don’t need or want the government restricting my access to a handful of stores or a website.

Cannabis was legal and used for thousands of years before it was illegal for the past 95 years. I think we have all figured out that private, legal weed will not be the end of civilization.

Jon Hiltz was a journalist for Marijuana.com for two years and is now director of business development for Indiva, a licensed cannabis producer in Ontario, Canada.

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