The Ontario government is changing the rules when it comes to the licensing of brick-and-mortar retail cannabis stores in the province, which are set to open this April.
In an exclusive interview with Global News on Thursday, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said: “We are very concerned about the supply issue so in order to make sure that we don’t have issues in Ontario we are going to open our retail stores in phases.”
The phase-based approach to licensing is a significant departure from the original plan of having an open-market system.
It means only 25 stores will open on April 1. Licences for those 25 stores will be handed out using a lottery system.
Fedeli said he brought the supply issue up when he met with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
“It’s the federal government who legalized cannabis and it’s the federal government who gives the federal licences — they are the only people that can license producers. This falls clearly on their feet; they went into a business they don’t have the supply for,” Fedeli said.
Fedeli also said the decision to sell pot online in Ontario before selling product in retail locations was prudent.
“Luckily, we didn’t open the stores and left holding the bag, as other provinces are. Can you imagine opening a retail store and finding out you don’t have any product?” he said.
Under former premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan, 40 government-owned pot shops would have been opened on July 1, the original date of legalization before it was pushed to Oct. 17. The provincial Liberals said they would double that number in a year and have 150 stores in operation by 2020.
When asked if Wynne’s plan was better, Fedeli said: “How could that be better? They would have no supply. Quebec opened stores, and now they’ve closed them and are only allowing them to be opened four days a week.”
Meanwhile, Ontario NDP deputy leader Sara Singh slammed the phase-based approach of the current provincial government as well as Wynne’s plan.
“The Liberal plan to open just 40 cannabis storefronts was a disaster waiting to happen — an open invitation to the illegal cannabis market to operate in Ontario. Doug Ford’s change of plan to restrict the number of cannabis stores to just 25 is going to make that problem so much worse,” Singh said in a statement released Thursday evening.
“People have been failed in the rollout of legal recreational cannabis.”
Municipalities in Ontario have until Jan. 22 to opt out of retail cannabis locations.
WATCH: Markham, Mississauga opt out of cannabis stores
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