Short cannabis sup­ply lim­its re­tail out­lets

The Observer (Sarnia) - - OPINION - VIC FEDELI

What we need is for the fed­eral govern­ment to re­view their ap­proval process to en­sure li­censed pro­duc­ers are able to bring cannabis to mar­ket.”

If On­tario’s govern­ment had its way, there would be as many cannabis re­tail stores across the prov­ince as the mar­ket could sus­tain.

We be­lieve in a free mar­ket, pro­mot­ing in­no­va­tive en­trepreneurs, and cre­at­ing a prov­ince that is open for busi­ness.

This is the best ap­proach to elim­i­nat­ing the il­le­gal mar­ket and keep­ing our chil­dren and youth safe.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is a se­ri­ous cannabis sup­ply short­age. As a re­sult, we are be­ing forced to scale back our plans dra­mat­i­cally, for now.

The num­ber of brick-and-mor­tar stores to be li­cenced is based on the avail­able sup­ply of cannabis, and right now, the ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber is 25. This is the re­spon­si­ble ap­proach.

We have adopted a tem­po­rary lot­tery process to select re­tail­ers and es­tab­lish 25 stores in On­tario.

The li­cences are be­ing dis­trib­uted in five re­gions across the prov­ince, with the spe­cific num­ber of li­cences be­ing de­ter­mined on a per capita ba­sis. We think this is the fairest ap­proach un­der the cir­cum­stances.

Many peo­ple have ex­pressed con­cerns that we can­not pos­si­bly com­bat the il­le­gal mar­ket with just 25 stores, and our govern­ment would agree whole­heart­edly.

But would we be bet­ter off open­ing hun­dreds of stores across the prov­ince, and not have cannabis to sup­ply them?

Com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als are propos­ing to in­vest tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to pur­chase li­cences, open re­tail stores, and hire staff.

As a life­long en­tre­pre­neur, I know full well the risks of open­ing a small busi­ness with an out­side sup­ply chain.

The risks in­crease sub­stan­tially if you don’t know from one day to the next if you are go­ing to have any in­ven­tory at all. Un­for­tu­nately, that is the re­al­ity right across Canada.

Que­bec has lim­ited re­tail op­er­at­ing hours to four days a week due to the lack of sup­ply and Al­berta has stopped is­su­ing any new re­tail cannabis li­cences.

We re­main com­mit­ted to mov­ing to an open al­lo­ca­tion of li­cences once we have cer­tainty sur­round­ing the fed­er­ally reg­u­lated cannabis sup­ply.

At that point, all re­gions of the prov­ince will have ac­cess to as many re­tail store au­tho­riza­tions as mar­ket de­mand sup­ports.

In ad­di­tion to any re­tail op­er­a­tion, On­tario’s Cannabis Store online dis­tri­bu­tion is up and run­ning and prov­ing it­self ef­fec­tive. OCS has de­liv­ered more than 400,000 orders since the start of le­gal­iza­tion. Ev­ery day, cus­tomers are or­der­ing and re­ceiv­ing their ship­ments.

What we need is for the fed­eral govern­ment to re­view their ap­proval process to en­sure li­censed pro­duc­ers are able to bring cannabis to mar­ket in a safe, but ef­fi­cient man­ner.

Our goals are to keep our kids and roads safe and com­bat the il­le­gal mar­ket. Tak­ing a mea­sured ap­proach to re­tail licensing is the pru­dent, re­spon­si­ble way to achieve our goals while the fed­eral govern­ment ful­fils its obli­ga­tions.

Vic Fedeli is On­tario’s min­is­ter of fi­nance.

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