Ottawa signals hands-off stance on provincial rec cannabis plans

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Canada’s federal government has indicated it won’t interfere in how provinces decide to regulate distribution, taxation and retail when adult-use marijuana is slated to become legal next summer – regardless of how the provincial programs are implemented.

“Each province has the flexibility to design it the way they think most appropriate. Ontario has laid out their proposal. That’s within their jurisdiction to do,” Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, told reporters, according to The Canadian Press.

Last week, Ontario became the first province in Canada to announce a framework to govern recreational marijuana, but it has been heavily criticized for being too inflexible.

The plan involves building 150 government-run, publicly owned stores, forcibly shutting down the approximately 100 private dispensaries already in operation and limiting cannabis consumption to residential homes. Private retailers would be excluded from handling sales.

The framework was dubbed “pathetic” and “puritanical” in the influential Globe and Mail newspaper. A marijuana activist called the plan an escalation of the war on drugs in the Ottawa Citizen. And a columnist writing for the government-owned CBC News suggested Ontario might actually lose money selling legal cannabis.

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