Ford should reverse plan for government monopoly on cannabis

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QUEEN’S PARK — The extension of cannabis legalization gives Ontario time to fix its flawed plan for a government monopoly. The Green Party is calling on Premier-designate Doug Ford to implement a cannabis retail plan that will put an end to the unsafe underground market.

“The former government’s cannabis monopoly with 40 government run retail stores will do nothing to end the unsafe underground cannabis market,” said Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. “The new premier now has time to fix this by licensing and strictly regulating local dispensaries to also sell cannabis.”

The Prime Minister has granted provinces more time to get their house in order for the landmark shift to legal cannabis. The Green Party has long advocated for a model similar to the craft brewery industry, in which small businesses and dispensaries would be regulated to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way. Doug Ford previously hinted that he would be open to allowing private sector sales, but has remained silent on the issue ever since.

The GPO supports sharing cannabis revenue with municipalities and dedicating all provincial revenue to supporting addiction programs.

“A few government run stores will not only lose money, it will continue to drive people to the unsafe underground market, hurting our economy and shutting out local businesses who want to operate safely and honestly,” said Schreiner. “A thriving underground market will also continue to make cannabis readily available to minors.”

“This is a chance for Doug Ford to change course. If he truly wants to create jobs for the people of Ontario, then he could take some time away from waging war on the cleantech sector and look at involving independent businesses in retail cannabis sales,” added Schreiner.

 

Greens oppose Liberals’ disjointed plan for cannabis monopoly

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QUEEN’S PARK, ON — The Liberal government has it all wrong in their plan to monopolize the sale of cannabis when recreational use of the drug is legalized. Restricting the sale of cannabis products to only government owned subsidiaries shuts out small businesses and local farmers. The Liberal plan does nothing to stop the unsafe, illegal underground market.

“The Liberals have missed a big missed opportunity to help build local businesses and create jobs. We should be following the craft brewery model – regulating small businesses and dispensaries to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way,” said Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner.

The Greens point to the large body of evidence showing that monopolizing cannabis sales will do nothing to stop the underground market, a view that is supported by many local businesses, who are also concerned that their livelihoods will be eroded by the government monopoly.

“Businesses like ours that sell cannabis accessories are worried about our future when the government enters this market. Not only will their monopoly approach fail to eliminate the black market, but the independent small businesses who started this industry in the first place will have trouble competing with the buying power of the government,” said Robin Ellins, Owner of Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture Shop.

By opting for a government monopoly, the Liberals are bucking the trend. Other provinces are choosing either a mixed public-private model or a fully private model. Greens are advocating for a public-private model to unleash the potential of this budding industry.

“We would license local businesses, farmers, and Indigenous entrepreneurial groups to open retail stores, thus creating jobs and contributing tax dollars to our communities,” said Schreiner.

Greens would also dedicate a portion of the tax revenue to municipalities, as well as to programs and services for mental health and addictions.

Real solutions needed to put people before politics

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“We need people powered change to clean up the mess at Queen’s Park,” says Schreiner. "The sad state of Ontario politics has real world consequences."

Monopolizing cannabis sales in Ontario the wrong move

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The Green Party of Ontario remains opposed to the government’s monopoly on the retailing of cannabis.

Cannabis legalization plan should allow local businesses to participate

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The Green Party of Ontario strongly supports a cannabis legalization plan with regulations focused on safety. We believe in placing restrictions on under age use.

We support a cannabis distribution plan that puts an end to the underground market and the criminalization of cannabis. We believe cannabis legalization should enrich our communities and not be a drain on resources.

We support a legalization plan that benefits small business, local farmers and indigenous entrepreneurs.

Sadly, the Liberal government’s proposed marijuana monopoly undermines all of this.
A small number of government-controlled dispensaries will do nothing to deter the underground market. It might even make the underground market stronger.

A vibrant underground market will do nothing to deter the high rate of young people using cannabis in Canada. An underground market will continue to benefit organized crime, lead to the use of unregulated and possibly unsafe cannabis, and make our communities less safe.

The government’s monopolization plan seems to ramp up the criminalization of existing dispensaries, which will unnecessarily drain resources from programs for mental health and addictions to support additional law enforcement.

The Liberal plan is designed to support insiders and the well-connected. It is a plan written for Bay Street, instead of Main Street.

The GPO believes there is a better way forward. Ontario could achieve the goals of eliminating the underground market and making our communities safer. We could have a plan that benefits communities by making them safer and more prosperous. We could achieve this while also placing restrictions on cannabis, especially youth access.

The Green Party is calling on the government to reconsider its monopolization plan. Instead the Green Party is asking the government to develop a cannabis distribution plan with strict regulations on licensed dispensaries.

The GPO is calling for a system 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 entrepreneurs.

Why not legalize – under strict regulations – the tens of thousands of cannabis providers who want to operate safe, legal businesses, but are currently defined as criminals by government policy?

The vast majority of these people are otherwise law abiding citizens. They want to come into the light, but the Liberal plan forces them to stay in the shadows.

Justice Department records support this: ninety-five percent of cannabis growing cases in court have no connection to organized crime or gangs, and the people charged were “otherwise law-abiding.”

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada should be designed to end the criminalization of law abiding citizens.

If structured properly, the cannabis market could provide local economic and community benefits that the craft beer industry is starting to provide. After decades of fighting for market access—trying to break through the government and big beer oligopoly–craft breweries are popping up in communities across Ontario. These breweries are creating local jobs, providing local economic benefits and contributing to the vibrancy of our communities.

Likewise, licensed and regulated boutique cannabis dispensaries could provide opportunities for creative new business start ups, local job creation and a market outlet for local farmers. Bringing cannabis out of the shadowy underground market would make our communities safer and more vibrant.

Hopefully we’ve learned by now that monopolizing beer sales was a mistake. Why make the same mistake with cannabis sales?

I understand that people have valid concerns about cannabis legalization. Legitimate concerns about the locations of retail outlets, the safety of how cannabis is sold and used, and the social and financial costs of regulating the market. People are concerned about the rate of use, especially among young people.

We share these concerns about the individual and public health effects of cannabis use.
But we believe these concerns can be addressed with strict rules and regulations, not with a monopoly that will undermine the reasons for legalization.

I strongly encourage the Ontario government to abandon its cannabis monopolization plan.

Instead, look to provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Alberta who are developing plans that do not monopolize the retailing of marijuana. Government’s role should be to regulate the retail cannabis sector, not to become the exclusive legal retailer.

Thank you,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

Cannabis monopoly will ramp up criminalization of pot

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Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner supports efforts to keep cannabis retailers away from schools. But he is calling on the Liberals to stop the government-monopolization of marijuana, which will do nothing to stop the underground market for cannabis.

The Liberals sent letters today to all Ontario municipalities saying the government-owned LCBO will try to reduce the number of existing dispensaries as it helps identify which towns and cities will get government-run cannabis stores.

“The Liberals’ approach seems to ramp up criminalization of pot outside the government monopoly, which undermines the reasons for legalizing it in the first place.” said Schreiner.

“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.”

The Liberals current plan to open only 40 stores next year with a maximum of 150 across the province will not be enough to meet demand or combat the underground market.

“The government’s plan is likely to result in unsafe, unregulated cannabis to still be available on the underground market,” warned Schreiner.

The GPO is calling for a system 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.

Read Schreiner’s open letter to Ontario cabinet ministers at gpo.ca/stop-monopolization-marijuana
Sign our petition to stop the monopolization of cannabis.

 

Monopolized marijuana a mistake

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For immediate release
September 8, 2017

Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, made the following comment regarding the proposed regulations for marijuana sales:

“This looks like another Liberal plan to say a lot and do very little, supporting big corporations and political insiders over local small businesses.

Having limited retail outlets across Ontario for legal marijuana will do virtually nothing to combat the huge illegal market.

The Green Party does not support the monopolization of marijuana. The marijuana industry should be like the craft brewery industry – helping build local businesses, creating local jobs and contributing tax dollars to local communities across the province.

The GPO supports strict regulations and controls for marijuana sales. The government can license retails outlets with strict rules focused on safety and health for small businesses.

This announcement at this time is a cynical ploy by the Liberals to divert attention from their ongoing legal scandals.”