Ontario to allow private retailers to sell cannabis, province will handle online sales

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced today it will allow recreational pot to be sold in retail stores while the province will handle online sales.

Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney laid out the government’s plan for a hybrid system in an announcement Monday at Queen’s Park. The new proposal scraps the previous Liberal government’s plan for a provincial monopoly on cannabis sales and will require changes in legislation to the Ontario Cannabis Act of 2017. 

Starting Oct. 17, the province will move to introduce a system for online sales through the Ontario Cannabis Shop (OCS), following which it will introduce a private retail model by April 1.

The Ontario Cannabis Store will not operate any storefronts, but will act as the wholesale supplier of cannabis to private retailers. 

“The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said.

The key elements of the act will set the legal age for the purchase of cannabis at 19, ban the use of recreational cannabis in all public places and workplaces and prohibit those under the age of 19 from possessing consuming or cultivating the drug.

The province says it plans to address illegal selling — that includes storefronts that currently operate in cities across the province. That means as of Oct. 17, the only legal place to buy cannabis in Ontario will be the OCS website. 

The regulatory framework for the private sector model will be designed in consultation with stakeholders, including municipal governments, Indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, business and consumer groups.

The province said it will also provide $40 million over two years to help municipalities across Ontario with costs related to the legalization of cannabis. Municipalities will have the option to opt out of allowing sales in physical stores. 

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