GPO leader Mike Schreiner sent the following open letter on October 18 2017 to Hon. Minister Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General, Hon. Minister Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term CareHon. Minister Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance.
Dear Hon. Ministers Naqvi and Hoskins and Sousa:
I am writing to urge you to reconsider your plan to monopolize cannabis sales in Ontario under a government entity.
Your current plan – to open up only 40 stores in 2018 with a maximum of 150 across the province – will not address the underground market. I recently cycled along one Toronto block that has three dispensaries alone. There are 651 LCBO outlets and 451 Beer Stores in Ontario. Your government is expanding alcohol sales to 450 grocery stores. Something tells me that a website and 40 to 150 stores will not satisfy existing demand for cannabis.
Your plan is likely to result in unsafe, unregulated cannabis to still be available on the underground market.
You have said your approach follows a goal of safety that upholds law-and-order. Yet your approach seems to ramp up criminalization of pot outside the government monopoly. This undermines the reasons for legalizing it in the first place.
Instead of spending money, time, and resources to protect your government’s monopoly, that money should be spent on public services that put people first. Law enforcement should focus on crimes that threaten the safety of our communities, not enforcing a government monopoly.
There is a better way – highly regulated and licensed local businesses to allow local farmers, small businesses and Indigenous groups to participate in the market, creating local jobs and contributing tax dollars to local communities across the province.
Your government has already started down this path with the craft brewery industry. Why not go the same route here – license retail outlets with strict rules focused on safety, health and community well-being.
Strict regulations and controls for cannabis sales can be done while also supporting local businesses. This approach will reduce the need for the underground market – increasing safety for everyone. This also will generate more revenue for the province—revenue that can be used to invest in services such as mental health and addictions programs, which have been underfunded for years.
As of today, 5113 people have signed our petition calling on your government to end the monopolization of cannabis. People across Ontario support an approach that:
1. Regulates and licenses small businesses and dispensaries to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way;
2. Ensures tax revenues from cannabis sales are used to fund education, mental health and addiction programs;
3. Creates more local jobs and prosperity by supporting small businesses, local farmers, and indigenous communities.
Ministers, I call on you to back away from your plan to monopolize marijuana. Use this opportunity to create a regulated system that benefits local economies across Ontario.
Leader, Green Party of Ontario
Cc. Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier