Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is expected to introduce legislation to regulate the recreational cannabis industry in late September, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.
The legislation could be introduced within days of the start of the fall session on Sept. 24.
Last month the new government reversed the previous provincial government’s commitment to opening 40 government-owned retail storefronts in the first year of legalization, which is set to begin Oct. 17.
Ontario’s new retail framework for recreational cannabis will start with online-only sales, with privately owned brick-and-mortar stores in place by April.
The sources, who requested anonymity, said the new legislation will likely limit the number of stores a corporation can own to a percentage of the overall market in order to level the playing field for small businesses.
The province is also expected to maintain control over wholesale, distribution and online sales.
Farm gate sales could also be part of the bill, which would boost micro-producers.
A source said the government might aim to pass the legislation by the end of November or early December.
Retail licences could then begin being issued in January or February.
“A picture is emerging that retail will be fairly wide open with certain geographic restrictions around schools, subject to local acceptance,” the source said.
Deepak Anand, vice president of Toronto consultancy Cannabis Compliance, expects the legislation to resemble Alberta’s model.
“It would be good for small businesses, as well as large businesses, because it will allow them to sort of bypass the (Ontario Cannabis Store) model” by giving direct access to customers, he said.
Speaking on a panel discussion at the Grow Up cannabis conference in Niagara Falls, Melissa Lantsman, vice president of public affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, said she expects the new government to move quickly on cannabis in the coming weeks.
Lantsman headed the Progressive Conservative campaign war room during the Ontario provincial election.
“This is a revenue play for the government,” she said. “That’s going to impact the cost of licenses and the fact that they don’t want to be on the hook for those brick-and-mortar stores.”