Ontario’s cannabis consumers may soon be able to enjoy the drug in more public locations following a newly launched consultation period.
The province announced on Monday (February 10) that it’s now soliciting feedback from public stakeholders to look into potentially allowing cannabis consumption in lounges. It will also consider creating consumption permits for outdoor festivals and concerts.
This exploration of future policies is an attempt to enhance the private cannabis sector, the Ontario government said in a press release, while also pressuring the still substantial black market for marijuana.
The province is aiming for a “responsible approach” when it comes to cannabis retail sales, said Attorney General Doug Downey, as Ontario works to build out a more open retail system for marijuana.
Ontario said in its regulatory registry that the consultation will end on March 10, but didn’t give a specific timeline for when changes can be expected.
In an emailed statement to the Investing News Network (INN), Jesse Robichaud, director of communications for the Office of Attorney General Doug Downey, said the provincial government is dedicated to improving the private cannabis industry.
“This latest consultation builds on this commitment to protect young people and communities by asking Ontarians for feedback on possible next steps to expand business opportunities for the legal cannabis industry in Ontario,” Robichaud told INN.
Currently, cannabis users in Ontario are prevented from using the drug in publicly owned spaces and locations, like bar patios and sports fields.
Within Canada, the province of Nunavut’s cannabis legislation already allows the government to license establishments that sell marijuana, including retail stores and lounges.
Ontario’s lack of a significant cannabis retail sector has been a point of contention with cannabis executives since recreational marijuana use was legalized in Canada in October 2018.
Last year, a group of lead players in the cannabis space sent Ontario Premier Doug Ford an open letter laying out the challenges of operating within the sector.
“Unfortunately, our ability to continue to invest and sustain the jobs that we have created is being severely challenged by the province’s current retail cannabis policy framework,” the letter reads.
“Compared to other provinces, Ontario is lagging far behind,” the executives continue.
Ontario’s cannabis distributor and retailer, the Ontario Cannabis Store, started its own public outreach in October 2019, conducting online and in-person consultations with federally licensed producers and retailers to explore different delivery methods for the retail segment.
The consultations follow Ontario’s declaration that it wants to improve the province’s cannabis market.
In its 2019 fall statement, the province’s Conservative government said it was making efforts to amend legislation to open up the cannabis space.
Later in December, Ontario took a large step towards fleshing out the industry by removing the cap on the number of private cannabis stores in the province and allowing retailers to sell cannabis-related items, like magazines and cookbooks.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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