Ontario's Pot Distribution Model is a Huge Mistake

LCBO-Style Distribution Plan 'Leafs' Many Without Access

It was recently announced that pot distribution in Ontario, Canada will be taken care of by a variant of the LCBO. The LCBO is also known as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and their stores account for the vast majority of alcohol sales in the province.

You can buy wine and such elsewhere, sure, but you don't get quite the same variety.

The plan is to create a cannabis control board, then open 60 or so storefronts in Year 1 for sale and distribution. Under this plan, the Ontario government is convinced that they'll contribute to the elimination of the Mary-Jane black market.

Hold up, y'all. It's not going to work the way you want it to.

By 2020, the province will only have 150 cannabis-specific stores opened up. Compared to the 660 LCBO stores and 212 LCBO agency store locations, this is pathetically small. Not only that, but independent retailers won't be allowed to sell pot. Those illegal dispensaries will be under more pressure to actually close (and the OPP will have more power to make them, I imagine). Those dispensary raids from earlier in the year will become more of a thing that happens if these places don't just close down to avoid the legal trouble.

This isn't going to curb illegal marijuana distribution.

Demand for the product will just increase as time goes on and more people realize where they can go to get it. Stats tend to lean toward people preferring to smoke weed than drink alcohol when the opportunity is presented, and I can't actually blame them for that. Alcohol tends to result in really violent behaviour in a lot of people, pot? Not so much. I'd rather have somebody that's stoned on pot around me than somebody that's drunk.

Drunk is scary.

With so few stores, according to CityNews, it'll be 91,000 or so people served by each one compared to something like 12,000 per LCBO. Most of these stores will probably be in urban areas, leaving small towns in the dust (again). There's not a lot to do in some of these towns but drink—if they at least have access to marijuana, maybe business for convenience stores will have a boom period.

Yes, you'll be able to order your pot online. I'm not sure that's going to be enough.

I know that there's concern by people within addictions care, mental health, and the health industry in general—but the fact is that a limited run will not reduce the black market demand. A limited run won't have an impact on black market demand. Even cheaper-than-black-market-price weed won't make somebody without a car travel five hours to the nearest pot store.

The solution is easy enough: allow for wider distribution.

Independent dispensaries could actually be helpful for the market. The people behind them tend to want their product to have a good reputation, they're passionate about pot, and I'm sure they'd be willing to go through the necessary steps to make their storefront legitimate. Have requirements like a small licensing fee—this allows government regulation to be somewhat easier as everybody that's allowed to sell would be included in a database, or otherwise identifiable as the real thing.

This is, of course, assuming that the government puts decent resources into maintaining such a database, the licensing, and keeping up with who's allowed to sell what. Let's assume they will for this.

Concerned about consumer safety? Set up some courses. If somebody has to pay $500 to take a weed course then perhaps that course is too expensive —don't make it more than a couple hundred bucks. Safe handling, distribution practices, sure, some of the distributors will already know this stuff. It's just another thing that they can point to to reassure consumers that, not only are they the real deal, they know what they're doing.

By limiting how legal pot is distributed the Ontario government does very little to ensure a reduction in black market demand. Being less stringent on who can sell will open up availability in such a way that there won't be as much of a need for a black market—and will guarantee that the weed everybody's getting will be safe.

Besides, I'm sure government-sanctioned pot shops won't be so willing to carry all the cool-looking toys to go along with their product.

This will provide more opportunities to entrepreneurs in areas that are otherwise lacking in services, too, and with more access to the product... more tax money can be brought in. It's a win-Wynne.

Mel Pearce
Mel Pearce

A small-town freelance writer and office clerk that loves video games, history, cats, and bears. Predominantly plays and roleplays FFXIV.

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Ontario's Pot Distribution Model is a Huge Mistake