Ontario sparks up conversation in the retail cannabis industry
The recent cannabis retail announcements from the Ford government in Ontario can be interpreted through three lenses: Policy, Politics and Pragmatism.
From a policy perspective, clearly the Ford Government is focussed on the macro objectives of protecting children/youth, keeping the roads safe and eliminating the black market/organized crime's hold on the recreational cannabis industry. Notwithstanding their welcomed reversal to privatize bricks and mortar recreational cannabis, these three policy objectives are their touchstones for how they approach this file.
Politically, we should not be surprised this main-street government approaches policies with a free-market-business, and particularly small business, first perspective. That helped guide their thinking around vertical market integration and the role of LP's in retail. To achieve their policy objective of eliminating the black market, they used a light touch and have refrained from setting limits either on store count or geography. That being said, they have reserved the right to do both, and more, as they see the market evolve.
Pragmatically, it's only 17 sleeps until cannabis becomes legal in Canada, and we have municipal elections across Ontario in three weeks. Municipalities play an important role in retail regulations across Canada, and that is no different with Ontario cannabis retail. Discussions and decisions from the municipalities therefore are just practically more productive after the elections as there may be different leaders in place after October 22nd. Lastly, notwithstanding a majority government at Queens Park, it will also still take time to move Bill 36 through to law, and the wait-and-see around certain elements allow the government the latitude to continue consulting stakeholders for another couple of months (and beyond), and importantly observe the short-mid term roll-out across the other provinces for any lessons.