Marijuana…..Ontario makes a farce of distribution
Pot Stores in Ontario…a Pathetic Plan
Ontario’s plan to sell pot in stand-alone cannabis stores that are essentially a subsidiary of the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is one of the most pathetic, ill-conceived governmental plans that I have ever seen.
For those of you around my age, do you remember the original LCBO stores? You walked into this desolate space, picked a bottle of wine or spirits from a laminated list of choices, wrote it down on a piece of paper with a pencil and presented it to a man behind a cage. He slipped back into the dark and a few moments later presented you with a bottle in plain brown wrapping. You paid him and left the store with your purchase. Now the Ontario government wants us to go back in time to purchase marijuana from their stores. There will be no display, no product out front. Probably just pictures and description with prices and those who want to buy some will have no real knowledge of what they are purchasing and how to use it.
It is my personal opinion that the one place a consumer should buy marijuana is in a pharmacy. In my perfect world, pharmacists would be trained on the different strains of plants and which ones are better for cooking as opposed to other strains which may be more conducive to smoking. However, the real role of the pharmacist would be to counsel the patient on the use of marijuana and how its use interacts or coincides with the prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs taken by the patient.
The second most prescribed class of drugs in North America are those for depression and anxiety. These are very powerful drugs and there can be serious interactions or degrees of impairment when used simultaneously with marijuana. A pharmacist can explain to a patient that one dose of marijuana, whether eaten or smoked, will take about 7 days to be detoxified by your liver. Since nearly all prescription drugs are detoxified in the same place, that means reactions that could last 7 days or longer. Is the man behind the cage in the pot store going to talk to you about this? His or her only comment will be “Air Miles and will that be cash or credit?” Will the clerk in the Pot store tell you that ingesting a marijuana cookie at night to help you sleep will still be in your body and acting the next morning when you go out to the bank or for your appointments? That you will be slightly impaired and your reflexes will be a lot slower. Of course not; it’s not their job.
As a former member of the Ontario College of Pharmacists I am very disappointed at this body for not even trying to have cannabis sold exclusively in pharmacies. It’s OK to dispense addicting narcotic pain killers and all the rest of the potent prescription drugs but they want nothing to do with the control, regulation and education that goes with dispensing marijuana.
Just last month Trudeau said the federal government will tax marijuana sales and share it with the provinces. By the time it is available in stores, the price will be so high with the federal sales tax and the HST tax it will only create an enormous black market business in this drug. The main purpose of legalization is decriminalizing the sale and use of the drug and to control the quality while keeping its distribution out of the hands of drug dealers. And yet until the new law comes into effect, it is still a criminal offence to buy, sell or use marijuana unless you have a special card to use it legally for health reasons. From now until next July, people may be caught and wind up with criminal records for the rest of their lives. Such a waste of the police departments and the judicial court system.
Ontario has also vowed to crack down on cannabis dispensaries, to shut them down and prosecute. Theoretically it is a legitimate thing to do but practically it is just plain stupid.
The province plans to open 40 province-run cannabis stores next year, 80 by 2019 and 150 by 2020. This is clearly inadequate in a province where there are 650 LCBO outlets and over 1500 pharmacies. To pretend that online sales can fill the void is a joke.
Instead of raiding dispensaries, of which there are at least 100 in Toronto alone, and prosecuting the poor schmoes who work there, government should be working to regulate these stores. They should also be learning from them, because they offer decent customer service and employ some impressive pot sommeliers. Under the current plan, dispensaries’ customers are more likely to turn to the black market rather than Ontario’s pot stores.
Pricing and Legal limits
There seems to be an unofficial consensus that individual should be able to legally hold 30 grams (one ounce), the equivalent of about 40 joints, depending on how you roll them. In Canada, there are legal minimum prices for alcohol and there will be for cannabis too, likely around $5 a gram. (The price of low quality “medical” marijuana currently.) But we don’t know how heavily it will be taxed.
The possession and sale of marijuana has been illegal in Canada since 1932. Ending prohibition which will take place July 1, 2018 is a significant legal and social change and requires a lot of planning and public policy decisions. The federal task force, chaired by Anne McLellan did a good job of laying out the challenges and fashioning a blueprint. But then they turned it over to each province and just like our health care system, will be different in every province for sure.
They call our elected politicians legislators because their job is to make laws. Many of them are lawyers and they are very good at creating legislation for our country. However, when it comes to business, the government should make the rules but it is the individual entrepreneurs who should be creating and running the business.