A Word From Max: Our President’s Op Ed on Ontario

A Word From Max: Our President’s Op Ed on Ontario

As the Ontario government announced its long-awaited plan on how to handle the legalization of cannabis, you could palpably feel all of the excitement…

only to be quickly followed by irritation, disappointment and outrage at the proposed model.

Similar to Ontario’s LCBO, the creation of a cannabis equivalent will only allow for the sale of recreational cannabis by the government itself. No private forms of cannabis sales will be allowed within the entire province (other than the Health Canada-governed medical cannabis, only sold to registered patients by licensed producers).

Although legalizing cannabis is a step in the right direction, the proposed direction and regulations are not only shortsighted, they’re completely misguided.

One of the main goals of legalizing cannabis is to eradicate the black market. However, instead of making cannabis easily accessible to the masses, Ontario’s proposed plan will drive them back into the arms of illegal dealers. With potentially only 40 state-run storefronts open in all of Ontario by the end of 2018 and only 150 by the end of 2020 (compared to the over 100 illegal dispensaries currently in Toronto alone), there won’t be nearly enough legal locations for responsible adult Canadians to purchase their cannabis. There is no way those limited numbers can handle the demand, and if there isn’t a storefront open near you, it’s easier to continue using the black market. This is particularly concerning when it comes to more rural areas of Ontario, many of which already struggle when it comes to access to an LCBO.

This brings us to the cannabis triple threat needed to overtake and eliminate the black market: price, choice and quality. Government-controlled pricing is likely a step in the right direction to ending the black market price wars and keeping the price of cannabis reasonable for consumers. However, as Ontario tries to compete with the black market through lower prices, this will inevitably result in lower grade products; producers will be forced to sacrifice quality to drive down costs in order to meet wholesale purchase prices determined by the government.

Controlling choice by forcing products to be kept hidden behind a shelf and barren of any distinguishable branding is also a mistake; consumers want to make an educated choice on what they are purchasing, and without that ability, they will look elsewhere.

Consumers need the ability to buy legal cannabis without feeling shamed by asking for concealed, plainly packaged goods. They need the autonomy to choose where they want to purchase our cannabis, to decide on the types of products they want and to know that the quality of the cannabis meets their expectations. They need to be confident that the products have been grown, harvested and cured by cannabis experts who have a solid understanding of what makes a desirable product.

As the Founder and President of a major licensed producer that’s based in Ontario, I’ve witnessed how important quality strains are to patients, but also how necessary it is to educate people on cannabis. When it comes to cannabis, there are so many options. Some strains will get you high, others won’t. Some will give you energy and others will make you sleepy. In this new market, there will be plenty of novices who need expert guidance when making their purchases. Thanks to the compounds found within the plant, such as the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) and the fragrant terpenes, there are a variety of results and effects that can come from using cannabis. It’s of the utmost importance that the staff at any legal cannabis storefront is fully educated to help naïve cannabis users navigate this new world.

In my years working in the legal cannabis industry I’ve had the opportunity to meet many passionate and dedicated professionals who are blazing new trails toward cannabis innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors. The “CCBO” model inherently squashes any potential developments within our province, while also preventing new business ventures that would lead to new jobs and a better economy for Ontario.

I also take issue with the proposed new e-Commerce system for selling cannabis online. There’s already such a system in place, currently being used by licensed producers of medical cannabis to sell products directly to patients. Starting a new system is a redundant venture that will cost the government, and taxpayers, a lot of money to create something that already successfully exists.

Ultimately, I believe the proposed provincial distribution model is not what the people of Ontario want or need. Throughout the government-held public and stakeholder consultations, the collective message to the government was to allow for private retail of cannabis—in one form or another—to best create a selling model that can be safe, beneficial and financially successful to the people of this province. Instead, the government chose to ignore this message, making its decision on what is best for itself, instead of what’s best for its citizens.

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