Ontario government announces plans to privatize sale of legal recreational Cannabis


Ontario’s Progressive Conservative, Doug Ford led government has revealed plans to revamp the province’s plan for the legal sale of recreational cannabis.

Rather than a slow roll out of private, government run retail outlets, Ontario will now adopt a strategy that allows private companies to operate brick-and-mortar marijuana stores, with the provincial government still managing distribution and online sales. The government’s new “private retail model” will launch on April 1st, 2019, according to the province.

“We will be ready to put in place a safe, legal system for cannabis retail that will protect consumers,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, in a press statement prior to the announcement. “We will also be ready to undermine the illegal market and protect Ontario’s roads.”

Rumours indicate that the province has plans to license 500 privately owned marijuana retail locations by next spring. It’s currently unclear how much these licenses will cost or what the certification process will consist of.

The Canadian federal government will legalize recreational marijuana federally on October 17th, 2018. Rumours that Ontario’s new Ford led administration had plans to ditch the privatized retail model proposed by the Liberals have been swirling for a few weeks now.

“Throughout this process we have held fast to some non-negotiable principles: public safety is paramount,” said Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, in a press release. “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.”

The Liberal’s strategy would have resulted in the province controlling all recreational cannabis sales though a new division of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCS)

It’s unclear if Canadian-founded ecommerce tech giant Shopify will still handle the in-store retail system of privatized, as well as the Ontario government online sale of cannabis. We’ve reached out to Shopify for clarification and will update this story with additional information when we hear back.

The province’s PC government has confirmed that the OCS will still run Ontario’s online cannabis sales, including home delivery and an age verification system.

The government also says it has plans to consult municipalities, indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates prior to the opening of privately run retail stores.

Update 08/13/2018: In regard to Shopify’s continued relationship with the OCS, Shopify’s vice president and and general manager sent MobileSyrup the following statement:

“Shopify supports every retail model. As we continue to work with the OCS to build their online store, we’re excited by the opportunity to work with Ontario’s cannabis entrepreneurs to help them build their retail operations.”