As a local smoking accessories salesperson, I can testify that October 17, 2018 was supposed to be a wonderful day for cannabis-consuming Canadians across the country. Prior to legalization in Ontario, swirling around were rumours of where we would be able to legally buy cannabis: Shoppers Drug Mart? Canada Post? The LCBO? Then-premier Kathleen Wynne decided to keep the sale of cannabis as a subsidiary of the LCBO, and that Ontarians could expect to be able to walk into a store on October 17 and purchase legal bud. Of course, not everyone was thrilled, especially when Ontarians learned that other provinces would be allowing private sale of cannabis. However, the Liberal government at the time pushed forward with their plans (spending $650 000 on designing a logo) and promised Ontarians that we could purchase and possess legal cannabis on October 17.
Then Doug Ford was elected, and Ontarians’ ability to access cannabis became basically non-existent. No legal recreational cannabis was smoked in Ontario on October 17.
In his pro-private interest tirade, Doug Ford decided that the former government’s plan to control the sale of cannabis was a mistake, and moved quickly to replace Wynne’s legalization plan with his own. Instead of stores being open in Ontario on the 17, Ontarians were forced to order products online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. The new tentative deadline for in store sales is set for April 2019. Instead of being able to consume their legal cannabis on the 17, Ontarians who ordered weed during the first days of legalization were forced to wait over a month for products to arrive. The OCS’ customer service was non-existent, save for a few emails from the company’s CEO apologizing for the delays and blamed them on the Canada Post strike. When I emailed after two weeks to inquire about the status of my order, I received an email that stated orders were not being filled in chronological order and that they could provide no estimate of delivery time. Those who did receive orders complained that the products did not weigh as much as advertised. Some even discovered mould in their cannabis.
Now, the issues with the product are not the Ford government’s fault. What is their fault is that in their effort to destroy any remnant of the previous government, the Ford government failed to provide efficient access to legal cannabis in Ontario. Not only did this government rush to create a cannabis outlet which drastically failed to meet the demand of Ontarians for legal cannabis, the government took money for orders they could not fulfill which continued to weigh down the OCS. By creating a monster in the form of the OCS, Ontarians are now thoroughly discouraged from purchasing cannabis legally from the government which robs Ontario of the incredible income that comes with the sale of cannabis. The national underground market for cannabis- valued at $5 billion- was the target of Trudeau’s legalization plan, but because of Ford’s hasty change of plans and lack of foresight into the interests of the people he claims to represent, this market remains open for business.
Canadians outside of Ontario are shocked when they realize we cannot walk into a store and buy cannabis (legally), and that the only way to access cannabis legally is through a government-run online store. During the months leading up to the October 2019 federal election, it is important for Ontarians to remember who is responsible for our woes regarding cannabis access. The Trudeau government fulfilled their promise of legalizing of cannabis; the Ford government made access to cannabis in Ontario a major buzz kill.