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Province To Sell Pot Online At Legalization, Private Retail To Begin April 2019

Ontario residents will be able to buy pot online immediately when the drug becomes legal in October, however, they will have to wait a few more months before its available in stores.

Provincial Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney announced details on Monday about how the province intends to roll out marijuana sales throughout Ontario.

Following the federal legalization of cannabis on October 17, the province will introduce an online retail channel called the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) for consumers 19 years of age and older. The OCS will include a verification system “that will ensure safe at home delivery for cannabis products”.

As of the legalization date, new road safety laws will also be implemented which will include serious penalties for those who drive under the influence of cannabis and other drugs. Police officers will be authorized to use oral fluid screening devices during roadside stops to enforce the new laws. Ontario will also have zero-tolerance for impaired young, novice or commercial drivers.

“Throughout this process, we have held fast to some non-negotiable principles: Public safety is paramount,” said Fedeli. “We will make sure our youth are safe; our roads are safe and that we work with our municipalities to ensure our neighbourhoods are safe.”

As well, the province intends immediately begin consultations to develop a “tightly regulated private retail model” for cannabis, which will see pot sold in stores by April 1, 2019. The consultation process will include discussions with municipalities, Indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, businesses and consumer groups.

The province will also consult with representatives from other provinces that have a private retail model for pot, such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, to ensure safety in Ontario and help to eliminate the illegal market. A zero-tolerance policy will also be put in place, which will include severely escalating fines for any retailer or dispensary that continues to operate in illicit markets.

“The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” said Fedeli. “Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”

A total of $40-million over two years will also be provided to Ontario’s municipalities in an effort to help local governments “keep their communities safe.”

The province will also develop provincial rules for private cannabis retailers, including prohibiting the sale of the drug to anyone under 19, set hours of operation and staff training.  The Ontario government will also introduce an “Official Ontario Cannabis Retailer Seal” to help consumers identify legitimate retailers and quality-assured products.

The federal government has already laid out a number other other retail requirements, including restricted advertising, that products are not visible to children, and that all sales must be made over the counter.

However, not every municipality will see pot sold at the retail level. Individual municipalities are being given to the chance to “opt-out” of the province’s retail model to prevent cannabis retail stores from opening within their boundaries.

“In order to protect our communities, we have to work closely with our municipalities. In fact, they are our essential partners,” said Fedeli.  “We are committed to creating a safe retail model that eliminates the illegal cannabis market in Ontario.  We are taking a balanced and responsible approach to building a system that works.”

While pot will be legal to consume by October 17, Ontario residents will only be allowed to use recreational cannabis in a private residence or the outdoor space of a home. Smoking pot will not be allowed in any public spaces, workplaces or motorized vehicles.