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This Is How Ontario Is Going To Sell Legal Pot

The province is the first to put forward its post-legalization plan.

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Ontario says all weed sales will have to go through government-run stores after legalization, with only about 40 stores planned to be open on the first day of the new system.

J.p. Moczulski / The Canadian Press

Ontario is the first province or territory to lay out its plans for how cannabis will be sold and regulated in response to federal legislation that will legalize recreational use by July 2018.

According to details announced at a Friday press conference, the province will set the minimum age at 19, the same as alcohol. The federal Cannabis Act gives provinces the ability to set the age as low as 18, although some medical groups have argued for a higher minimum age due to the effects of cannabis use on brain development.

“Cannabis will remain a carefully controlled substance in Ontario," Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said.

Sales and distribution will follow the example of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) but weed and alcohol will not be sold at the same locations. The new legal regime will start with roughly 40 stores at launch, with plans to have about 150 stores running by 2020. Online sales will be available throughout the province as soon as weed is legal.

The province is taking a hard line against the "grey market" of dispensaries that has flourished in cities across Canada. There are currently more than 80 dispensaries in the Toronto area alone, according to the website Weedmaps. But the province plans to cut those suppliers out of the coming gold rush.

“Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal retailers under the new model," Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told reporters. "Let me be clear: These illegal pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down.”

Lars Hagberg / AFP / Getty Images

Other restrictions include:

• A ban on consumption in public or in the workplace. That means unless you're smoking at home, you're still breaking the law.

• No plans for licensed establishments where pot could be sold or consumed, although there may be "opportunities in the future," Naqvi said.

• No edibles will be sold at the new stores.

People under 19 caught with "small amounts" of cannabis will have it confiscated by police without earning a criminal record, Naqvi said.

The ministers did not give estimates of expected demand, prices, or revenues once the new legal system is up and running.

In an acknowledgment of how restrictive Ontario's plan will be, at least at the outset, Sousa suggested the province was relying on the experience of US states that have legalized recreational use.

"It is better to start with strong controls," Sousa said.

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at

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