After being sworn in as premier of Ontario last week, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford addressed cheering supporters outside the provincial legislature in Toronto. “My friends,” he said under the blazing sun, “a new day will dawn in Ontario, a day of prosperity and opportunity, opportunity for all to succeed and prosper.”
But will he give cannabis producers the opportunity to move into the retail sector? That remains to be seen—but they are feeling optimistic.
In late 2017, the then-ruling Liberal Party announced plans to regulate cannabis sales through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), a subsidiary of the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government would open 40 stores as soon as recreational cannabis became legal and open at least a hundred more within two years.
Two months before the election, Ford criticized the plan and said he would be open to privatization—allowing recreational cannabis to be sold outside of government-run stores. “I’ve always been open to a fair market, and I let the market dictate,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio. “I don’t like the government controlling anything no matter what it is…”
Those comments caused a bit of a stir. The following day, Wynne said wider retail access to recreational cannabis would upset many Ontarians. “I think that a lot of parents would have concern about cannabis being available beside candy bars in corner stores,” she said. “I think there would be a recklessness to doing what Doug Ford is suggesting.”