Ontario’s pot selling plan goes from bad to worse
The government selling weed to anybody is a terrible idea.
So is the creation of a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to create and run a retail network.
I was browsing Ontario’s sunshine list on Monday, the phone-book sized document that catalogues publicsector salaries of more than $100,000.
The LCBO has either 359 or 313 employees on the list — honestly, it was like counting jelly beans in a giant jar — including a president and CEO who made $494,308 in 2016.
When the government retails anything, the overhead costs are ridiculous. The stand-alone Cannabis Control Board of Ontario — if such is even its name — will be required to have a board, with paid members, supporting staff, some kind of secretariat, one imagines, and an audit committee and such, and an annual report, and a logo, and offices and, one assumes, many, many more people on the sunshine list. This is before it sells a single gram.
The LCBO as a model? I was skimming its 2015-2016 annual report, a 104-page gripper I’m sure cost nothing to produce. It listed 10 vice-presidents. It did not list the names of 8,000 in-store employees, most of them casual, some of whom earn close to $27 an hour.
That year, it cost $874 million in total expenses to run the LCBO, a scandalous sum lost in the vast billions that liquor brings in and the annual premium it sends to the province ($2 billion, give or take).
So, the point is an old one, like the story of the $2 hammer that costs $60 after nine departments and six committees, in two languages, decide it is an appropriate device to strike nails: The government, not driven by a profit motive, is bad at selling and buying things.
Already, the first 40 stores sound silly. There will be no self-service and the products will not be visible to youth. It being the government, the stores won’t be junky, but high-end, full of security devices and vaults and probably cost the earth to lease or build.
People will line up for their pot, one assumes, like getting your licenceplate sticker.
Staff, the government assures, “will have knowledge of the individual products and public health information about how to use cannabis responsibly.” (On that note, I’d like to see the one living public health official who is going to encourage anyone to use cannabis, “responsibly” or otherwise.)
There seems to be all this concern about keeping weed shops away from schools. Why? Isn’t cannabis a suitable product for anyone older than 19? If not, why is the government selling it? And doesn’t the CCBO want to sell as much marijuana as possible? If so, set up right across from universities and colleges.
Or are we just embarrassed about the whole thing?
The Globe and Mail published the results of an interesting poll on Monday. It found only seven per cent of respondents agreed with the Liberal government pitch that legally distributing marijuana would lead to a drop in consumption by Canada’s youth. That’s because 93 per cent of Canadians are smart.
On the weekend, a friend related this comment passed along by her buddy: “You know, I haven’t talked to one parent who thinks this is a good idea.”
Look at the lead quote from Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s attorney general and a father of young children, who makes it sound like the province is retailing vials of nitro to young people with the jitters: “We’ve heard people across Ontario are anxious about the federal legalization of cannabis.” (Oh, “heard” have you?)
Booze, gambling, weed. How are any of these a public service in Ontario?