Friel critical of pot plan
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel wants the province to release the findings of the consultation process that led to its plans for distribution of legalized marijuana in Ontario.
Ontario is the first province out of the gate with a detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana when Ottawa legalizes it next summer, rolling out plans Friday to sell pot through its LCBO liquor store monopoly.
Despite a federal task force recommendation against mixing pot and booze sales, Ontario’s Liberal government says marijuana will be sold in up to 150 dedicated LCBO stores run by the province’s liquor control board.
And buyers will be able to get pot at separate retail outlets or through an LCBO-run website that should be ready for business by next July.
I’m frustrated and deeply disappointed with the provincial government’s suggested approach to managing federal legalization of cannabis.” Brantford Mayor Chris Friel
But Friel is critical of the plan.
“I’m frustrated and deeply disappointed with the provincial government’s suggested approach to managing federal legalization of cannabis,” Friel said.
“The LCBO model is a monopoly controlled by the province. This proposed model fails to take into consideration opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business, as well as agricultural interests.”
It eliminates potential economic development and entrepreneurship for municipalities and burdens them with having to manage the strain on an already maxedout resources, to deliver municipal social services and law enforcement, without any of the powers to regulate, noted the mayor.
“What I see happening to (independent) growers is that they become like those who run craft breweries and getting squeezed out of the market,” said Friel, adding that he’s also concerned about the province’s plans’ impact on farmers.
“Why can’t farmers have this as a third crop?” the mayor said. “Why couldn’t farmers set up their own co-op? No one creates and manages co-ops better than farmers.”
He said that the government’s approach will not eliminated the black market for marijuana.
The federal government introduced legislation early this year that seeks to legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana by July 1, 2018. Provinces have been left with the job of designing their own distribution system and regulations.
The Ontario government says the LCBO model is “time-tested” and it makes sense to use it for marijuana.
But Friel, who is the chair of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario task force on marijuana legalization, said that the province’s approach is in opposition to what has been suggested by municipalities and others with an interest in the industry.
“I provided substantial feedback to our provincial partners that is diametrically opposed to the model proposed,” Friel said. “How and why was that feedback not considered?”
The mayor said he has spent the last 12 months consulting with advocacy groups, small business owners, farmers, lawyers and constituents. He is calling on the province to release to the public the results of its consultation process.
“I think it’s incumbent on the ministries to release the results of the public consultation that informed this strategy, specifically, the law enforcement table, so that the public can understand the rationale that led to (the) announcement,” Friel said.
“This process was not a dialogue, it was a download.
“I implore the provincial government to also consider the voices outside of Toronto and Ottawa when making such an important decision that will dramatically impact all municipalities in Ontario.”
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel says that the provincial government ignored public consultation in rolling out its plan to distribute marijuana when it is legalized next year.