Kelly Steele • Windsor Star
Sep 08, 2017
A decision by the provincial government Friday to have the LCBO oversee 150 standalone cannabis stores next year could unleash a “tsunami” of pot smokers downtown, warns a local medical cannabis lounge owner.
Jon Liedtke, co-owner of Higher Limits cannabis lounge said Ottawa’s plan to legalize pot by July 2018 is a step in the right direction but the province’s plan to open 150 standalone stores by 2020 is flawed. Under the plan, the proposed age to purchase and possess is 19 and the use of pot in public places and workplaces is prohibited.
Liedtke expects a wave of American teens to converge on Windsor and let loose since they only need to be 19 to purchase weed and alcohol.
“What you are going to see is a tsunami like we’ve never seen in our downtown area,” said Liedtke. “Downtown is going to become a little Amsterdam.”
He pointed out that smoking pot is illegal in public places but yet someone can sit in their backyard or balcony and smoke. He said policing it downtown will be difficult.
“Unless they hire a fleet of cannabis police, the local police are not going to want to be coming after the average cannabis smoking teen,” he said.
Liedtke hoped the province would allow private retailers to sell marijuana.
The LCBO will oversee the legal retail of cannabis in Ontario throughout the stores as well as an online order service. The stores will be separate from the current LCBO locations. About 40 weed stores will open by July 1, 2018, 80 by July 1, 2019, and the remainder by 2020. Online distribution is expected to be in place by July 2018.
In a move that will close scores of illegal weed “dispensaries” across Ontario, the LCBO will purchase its product from the medical marijuana producers licensed by Health Canada.
“It’s great in terms that we are moving forward in terms of legalized cannabis,” Liedtke said. “But leave it to the province to do it half step at half step.”
MPP Taras Natyshak criticized the timing of the announcement which came “out of the blue” and with little information.
“The timing of the announcement is suspect,” Natyshak said. “The Liberal party is currently under investigation for alleged election violations in Sudbury. Any political observer would see this as an attempt to take away attention from that violation.”
MPP Percy Hatfield agrees with the timing, especially since the announcement came with so many unanswered questions. He pointed out it doesn’t indicate anything about which communities will have stores or where they will be located.
“I think it’s odd, I think it’s vague for a reason, it grabs the headlines,” he said. “It gets people talking. It will be the top story instead of something that’s happening out in Sudbury. The House resumes on Monday and it will be one of the topics. It’s turning into an interesting start.”