Ontario pot plan leaves the door open for underground growers and sellers

So, as of July 1, 2018, you’ll be able to buy marijuana at 40 shops in Ontario — provided you can find them and they can keep up with demand — as well as by mail.

The Ontario government announced today that it will allow 150 stores to sell pot after it is legalized on July 1, and that they will all be run by the province’s liquor board, the LCBO, in stand-alone stores. In other words, if you want to buy booze and dope, you have to make two stops.

Reports the Toronto Star: “There will be 40 LCBO weed stores in place across the province on July 1, 2018, 80 by 2019, and 150 in 2020.”

They will be supplying pot provided by current medical marijuana producers, and the government expects a boost in its tax revenue. They also claim “Prices will be kept competitive to curb the black market,” TorStar reports.

I fear it is doomed to fail, and so does Jodie Emery, a well-known cannabis advocate and co-owner of Cannabis Culture outlets that will be out of business in Ontario — and probably the rest of Canada, too, as provincial governments monopolize sales.

Emery points out that government monopolies will not end the black market — a black market that has been firmly entrenched for several decades now, I might add. She feels storefront operations like hers should be allowed to continue.

I’m with her on that: why should governments — that have penalized people with ridiculous pot laws for so long — now have a monopoly on its sales?

The Ontario premier is opposed to the many “illegal storefront weed shops (that have popped up in Toronto), some of which are supplied by, or operated by, organized crime gangs,” TorStar reports.

As if the gangs will stop selling it when those “storefront weed shops” are closed. Hahaha.

I suppose in time, a decade or so, perhaps, the black market in pot might dry up a little in Canada — if governments can actually keep the price lower than what underground dealers sell it for. But I can’t see that happening.

There will still be a demand for an underground network of pot dealers by, among others, people the government is now saying won’t be allowed to smoke pot — those under 19. Reports TorStar: “Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase or possess marijuana and pot consumption will be limited to private homes. Smoking weed will continue to be illegal in any public space, including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles.”

You got to wonder about the latter pipe dreams.

Let’s face it: teenagers have been smoking pot since the 1960s, and that isn’t going to change. And they have been toking it in parks and other public spaces all those years, and that isn’t going to change.

In fact, I have my suspicions about the whole legalization process and the sales plan by the Ontario government, who is first out of the gate with their provincial plan on how the product can be sold. It seems to me they are leaving the door open to the black market — that they are not muscling out the biker gangs, various mob types and the smaller cottage industry growers and their network of sellers completely, or at least not right away.

In the first year when the LCBO only has 40 pot outlets, there will be ample opportunity for the underground pot economy to flourish, albeit not openly in storefront operations. But even when all 150 LCBO-run pot stores are up and running by 2020, there will be room for an underground pot industry to flourish — especially if those sellers undercut the LCBO’s prices and taxes. Which they will do, you gotta know. It won’t be difficult.

That might be good news for teens and others buying it on the so-called “black market,” because they will get it cheaper than folks filing in to LCBO-run outlets.

It almost seems like organized crime has had a say in this.

Naw, it couldn’t be . . .

Also worth noting is the federal government is making it legal to grow your own — up to four plants at a time. So, if you learn how to grow it properly (with special lights and stuff), you could produce several pounds of potent buds a year. There are 16 ounces in a pound . . . I’m not an expert on this, but I think growers can get a couple of harvests a year, if not more. That’s certainly a lot more pot than one person or a couple could possibly consume.

So, we could end up with more pot growers than ever before, many of whom might, umm, share their pot with friends. Pot, incidentally, that hasn’t been grown under strict government-stipulated growing conditions, which the politicians have been touting as a reason why it is so important to buy their pot.

— Jillian

Photo credit: Chmee2, Wikimedia Commons

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