Ontario unveils cannabis retail board with no industry experience

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Canada’s largest province on Friday unveiled the brand name and logo for its recreational cannabis stores and the board tasked with directing the company as it tries to compete with the black market.

The retail brand and sales monopoly will be known as the Ontario Cannabis Store.

The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp.’s five-member board will include:

  • Two executives from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • The CFO of a Toronto hospital
  • A municipal law attorney
  • A human resource executive

Three of the nominees sit on the board of directors of the cannabis agency’s parent company, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Industry experts expressed concern that the board’s lack of legal marijuana industry experience could make it harder for the Cannabis Store to carve out meaningful market share from the black market after legalization.

However, an industry source who has had conversations with the government told Marijuana Business Daily that it’s highly likely the CEO appointment will go to somebody with industry experience.

Abi Roach, director of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, said the board’s composition tells her the state-owned corporation still sees cannabis through a “prohibitionist lens” and “it’s not interested in seeing this a business.”

“There’s nobody on the board that has ever sold cannabis,” added Roach, who’s also the proprietor of Hotbox Cafe in Toronto.

“They’ve probably never even talked to a cannabis consumer, beyond thinking that we’re a bunch of criminals and drug addicts.”

Omar Khan, vice president of public affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a strategic communications consultancy, believes the board makeup speaks to how the government is prioritizing appropriate use and harm reduction, particularly with the inclusion of mental health experts.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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