Should government or business sell legalized marijuana in Canada?

Some people believe that the government selling marijuana is just a cash grab.
Some people believe that the government selling marijuana is just a cash grab. REUTERS/Blair Gable

The times they are a changin’.

Ontario is finally following some other provinces and allowing beer to be sold in grocery stores.

Right on the heels of that development is Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s statement that it would make “a lot of sense” to sell pot at Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores.

After all, the sale of marijuana will be regulated if and when marijuana will be legalized, so what better place to sell it than a government owned and regulated store, right?

However, not everybody is on board with this idea. Some people believe that the government selling marijuana is just a cash grab by the province.

If the LCBO starts selling marijuana, it would stand to make a good profit. University of Western Ontario professor Mike Moffat told CBC News that in tax revenue alone, the province could make about $5 million per year. Not bad.

While Wynne wants the provincial liquor board to control the sale of weed, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already given his opinion on where he doesn’t want marijuana to be sold: local corner stores.

Though Trudeau plans to legalize marijuana and remove possession from being a criminal offense, that doesn’t mean that pot will be freely available. He also plans to introduce “new stronger laws” to penalize those who sell pot to minors, those who sell it outside a regulatory framework, and those who drive while under the influence.

In terms of how to regulate the sale of marijuana to avoid the potential legal pitfalls, selling it at liquor control boards across Canada could be a solution.

Wynne makes the point that there is already a mechanism in place at liquor boards, like the LCBO, for regulated sales of alcohol. Why not use that same mechanism for the regulated sale of marijuana?

On the other hand, why not sell it at local corner stores?

It’s not as if local corner stores, or convenience stores, are allowed sell cigarettes to anyone who walks in. They still must follow government regulations, meaning they are forbidden to sell cigarettes to minors.

The one problem with that idea though, is that it`s not a criminal offense to be driving while under the influence of cigarettes, but is an offense to drive while under the influence of marijuana.

It’s undeniable that liquor control boards have a much stricter regulatory framework than local corner stores. Liquor boards can restrict the amount of marijuana being sold, keep track of how much is being sold, and also give buyers a stern warning about not smoking it before driving. Its doubtful buyers would face these same restrictions from other sellers.

Still, the problem is without marijuana being legalized yet, and without knowing the intention of how the federal government wants marijuana to be regulated, how can anyone really speculate on  what the best way or venue is for selling pot?

Even LCBO spokeswoman Christine Bujold told the Canadian Press: "…Without federal legislative change and specific direction from the provincial government, it would be premature for us to work on any concrete operational plans."

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