TORONTO _ Ontario has named the first 14 cities where it will set up government-run marijuana stores by July 2018.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which will run the shops through a subsidiary, said Friday the stores will be located in Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor.
The LCBO said its representatives, along with staff from Ontario’s Ministry of Finance, will meet with the municipalities in the coming weeks to determine the exact locations.
The Ontario government said it will be identifying more locations for its first batch of 40 stores but notes that all consumers will be able to access cannabis through an online retail website.
The province plans to set up approximately 150 stand-alone cannabis stores by 2020.
Last week, Finance Minister Charles Sousa wrote municipal leaders and said Ontario’s store rollout aims to achieve the right geographic distribution across the province and to reduce the number of illegal marijuana dispensaries that have opened since the federal government announced it will legalize marijuana next summer.
“Our proposed approach is to build on the expertise and back-office capabilities of the LCBO to set up the Crown Corporation,” Sousa said in the letter to municipalities. “Our priority is to reduce the illegal market by building on our strengths to create an efficient and secure system for people across the province.”
The public will also be notified about the proposed store locations and will be asked to provide feedback directly to the LCBO, he said. None of the retail stores will be located near schools, Sousa said.
Ontario was the first province to announce a detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana and will set the legal age to purchase it at 19.
The federal government introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use of recreational pot by July 1, 2018, but left it up to individual provinces to design their own distribution system and usage regulations.
Consumption of legal weed will not be allowed in public spaces or workplaces and should be confined to private residences, the province has said.
The government introduced its marijuana legislation earlier this week, which contains new penalties for people that are convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis, including fines of up to $250,000 and/or jail of up to two years less a day.
For every day those people or businesses continue to sell marijuana after being convicted the first time, they will be subject to further fines of up to $100,000 and $500,000, respectively.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the government will clamp down on illegal distribution channels.
“We are going to work very hard towards that,” he said. “We have put very strict penalties in that regards?.We feel very comfortable that the regime that we will put in place will be a significant deterrent for these illegal businesses.”