Former aide to Ontario premier: Decision ‘within weeks’ on cannabis retail

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Toronto Ontario Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash

A key member of new Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s inner circle has joined the board of Toronto-based Cronos Group – and he believes the new premier could make a decision on how cannabis will be sold in Canada’s largest market within weeks.

Mike Coates, who worked in the Ford “war room” during the recent election campaign and then on his transition team, joined the Cronos board at the end of June.

“Doug is a businessman, he’s a pragmatist, and he will take a look at the policy realm that he’s responsible for,” he told Marijuana Business Daily in an interview. “I would say that everything would be on the table, from what Premier Wynne was prepared to put in place, straight through to a private sector solution to distribution.”

Coates doesn’t currently have any role in the Ford government. He said while the decision could be made soon, an announcement could come down the road.

The new government is said to be reconsidering the plan hatched by former Premier Kathleen Wynne to sell recreational cannabis in a small number of government-owned stories starting Oct. 17.

But the province has put efforts to sign leases for Ontario Cannabis Store outlets on hold while it mulls the possible shift.

The government-run monopoly retailer was left without permanent leadership when its president was recently reassigned to a different government post.

Entrepreneurs hope that private-sector participation in the new industry is ultimately allowed.

Cronos is one of 113 licensed marijuana cultivators racing to expand capacity ahead of the Oct. 17 legalization date.

The company recently announced plans to construct an 850,000-square-foot, 70,000-annual-kilogram-capacity greenhouse.

Coats brings to Cronos a deep knowledge of government policy and the players involved in making key decisions.

“(The marijuana industry) is the most exciting thing to come along since the internet,” Coates said. “It’s a brand-new, legal business that will extend from medical and pharmaceutical, all the way to recreational.

“It could be bigger than beer, wine and tobacco put together.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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