Ontario’s cannabis retail lottery system stacked against small and legacy players hoping to go legit
Submitted by Marijuana News
It’s time for the Ontario government to take another look at its objectives for the cannabis retail market, Toronto-based cannabis lawyer Caryma Sa’d argues.
In an interview on CTV’s Your Morning Monday, Sa’d suggested the current lottery framework excludes many small cultivators from entering the legal market, thereby causing them to seek other options, including illegal dispensaries.
“The lottery system is perceived by many as an unfair entry point into [the] market,” Sa’d said in the interview. “There have been people who have an immense amount of expertise and knowledge, these craft producers are entrepreneurs, who are being shut out from the very industry they effectively helped legalize.”
Illegal cannabis dispensaries have been in the news since legalization, even more so recently, with Toronto police barricading the storefront of CAFE, which has a chain of illegal dispensaries, with cement blocks and arresting 18 people. Despite those enforcement efforts, illegal sales continued outside the dispensary on the sidewalk, causing authorities to respond by issuing tickets.
Operating an illegal dispensary is a breach of both the federal Cannabis Act and provincial laws. Sa’d pointed out that the “worst-case” scenario for those charged under federal legislation is up to 14 years in prison, and/or as much as $100,000 in fines. That said, to her knowledge, punishments this severe have “yet to be seen.”
It isn’t just illegal to operate a dispensary, but also to possess products from one, as one individual learned the hard way. A 37-year-old Toronto man outside CAFE was charged with “possession of illicit cannabis” under Section 8(1)(b) of the Cannabis Act, which makes it a crime to knowingly possess illicit cannabis, Leafly reported.
So what can be done to address the issue of illegal cannabis storefronts? Sa’d believes that government, both provincial and federal, need to re-evaluate the status quo for a more inclusive market.
“It’s apparent from the civil disobedience that we’re seeing that people still want to participate in the industry,” she said. “They’re concerned about access, pricing, quality and that craft entrepreneurs may be the solution to that,” Sa’d added.
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