If you thought you’d be walking into a store and legally buying some weed this October, think again. The provincial government announced today that they are delaying the launch of private marijuana sales in bricks-and-mortar stores until April 2019. Instead cannabis sales will be through an online-only retail channel, when marijuana is legalized on October 17th.
Private retail sales will begin April 1st 2019, and not with forty government-run shops as originally planned by the former Liberal government.
“The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli in a statement. “Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”
The government-run Ontario Cannabis Store will provide the online platform for retail sales, as well as being the wholesaler when private stores open. The province said today, that the website will include “a verification system to ensure customers are 19 or older.”
That means as of October 17th, the only legal place to buy cannabis in Ontario will be the OCS website.
Fedeli said the government will propose creating an official retail “seal” to help consumers identify federally qualified cannabis products.
Today’s announcement of the about-face in policy may end uncertainty about the province’s plans, but it also makes it unlikely initial sales will meet original expectations. The new changes will also require changes in legislation to the Ontario Cannabis Act of 2017.
As Provincial governments are responsible for administering retail marijuana distribution, sales models vary across the country by province. Alberta has approved privately run stores while Quebec plans to sell through its government-run alcohol agency.
The province also said that it will provide $40 million over two years to help municipalities across Ontario with costs related to cannabis legalizatio, and that municipalities will have the option to opt out of allowing sales in physical stores.