Ontario to launch state-run retail marijuana outlets

Marijuana will be sold in Ontario through a chain of government-run stores, all existing medical cannabis dispensaries will be closed, and consumption will be limited to private homes, Ontario’s Liberal government said Friday in announcing the province’s framework governing recreational MJ.

The measures effectively shut the door to private businesses in the retail space and will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs to get a slice of the legalized cannabis sector when recreational legalization is set to come into force next summer.

The government hopes to have 40 cannabis outlets by July 2018, 80 by July 2019 and 150 up and running by 2020. Online distribution will be available starting next July.

The stand-alone outlets will be run by the LCBO, Ontario’s government-run liquor monopoly, which operates a chain of 651 liquor stores across the province.

Legislation will be introduced later this fall.

In announcing the cannabis framework, the government said illegal dispensaries currently operating in the province would be “shut down.”

About 60 dispensaries are operating in Toronto alone.

Three other provinces — Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — are also leaning toward a government-run retail monopoly, though no formal decision has been made yet.

The provinces have until next summer to come up with regulations on taxation, retail, public consumption and home cultivation.

Ottawa has committed to legalizing the adult-use industry by July 1, 2018.

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