Canada's Cannabis Lead Thinks Ontario is 'Making Excuses' for Poor Rollout of Legal Pot Shops

Bill Blair—minister of border security and organized crime reduction, and Canada's point man on cannabis legalization—has criticized Ontario for not doing enough to displace the black market.

When Ontario officials announced they would be licensing another 50 legal cannabis retailers, they cited ongoing cannabis supply issues as the primary reason for why they couldn't allow for a more open market.

"While the federal supply issues persist, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licenses to businesses," Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said at the time.

However, Bill Blair has since said this simply isn't a good enough reason to continue to restrict the legal cannabis market in the province. 

"The data is clear: there remains enough supply to meet and exceed combined retail sales," Blair told Global News.

Blair said what the province was actually doing was "making excuses" for their "inept approach" to legal cannabis sales and their failure to kill the black market.

"With the notable exception of Ontario, the rest of the country has made steady progress in displacing the illicit market with licensed and regulated retail stores," Blair said.

However, Emily Hogeveen—the press secretary for Ontario's minister of finance Rob Phillips—has since doubled down on the province's cannabis plan, and accused Blair of ignoring the real issues at hand.

"We urge the federal government to take steps to quickly increase the supply of recreational cannabis so that we can continue combating the illegal market in Ontario," Phillips said. "Rather than ignoring the national supply challenges, Minister Blair should focus on the federal Government’s responsibility to improve legal supply."

And industry folks appear to be siding with the feds on this one. Darren Bondar—president and CEO of cannabis retail chain Spiritleaf—said that while supply was an issue for legal pot shops early on, those issues aren't as apparent anymore.

"Everybody needed some time to ramp up, to get accustomed to the packaging and the processes to to get cannabis to the market. Companies seem to have now figured that out," Bondar said. "I think this supply discussion is a thing of the past and will likely change to an oversupply issue."

So while Ontario's legal cannabis market has certainly had some good news in recent days, it seems as if Canada's most populous province is still dragging their feet when it comes to truly allowing the industry to reach its full potential.

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For cannabis enthusiasts living in adult use states, long gone are the days of sneaking around with a dime bag in a coat pocket and worrying about whether the neighbors know you’ve got weed. But the sad truth is that, for millions of Americans living in prohibition or restrictive medical-only states, accessing safe and regulated cannabis is still a problem. But does that mean that those living without access to the regulated market are abstaining from cannabis altogether?

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