At the start of the new year, the Ontario government began accepting applications from those interested in joining a lottery to operate their own cannabis retail store within the province.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario plans to open 25 stores by April 1, which also marks the first day cannabis retail stores will be allowed in the province.
This is a move that seems long overdue.
The irony is simple: obtaining recreational cannabis has become more difficult since it was federally legalized last October than when it was illegal.
Since the recreational use of marijuana was legalized in Canada last October, the provincial government’s online retail store, The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), has been the only legal means of obtaining pot.
When the site went live a few months ago,disappointment from consumers was almost immediate. Social media was flooded with complaints about orders that never came, people receiving less than what they ordered — or the wrong order altogether — poor customer service and even reports of expired/mouldy weed.
Within two weeks of the site being live, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé confirmed on Oct. 31 that his office was already reviewing over 1,000 complaints regarding the online service.
On Oct. 23, the OCS released a statement noting they had processed over 100,000 orders since legalization and had received more orders in the first 24 hours than all other provinces combined.
This is where the problem lies. While the OCS was working hard to fill demand, the fact is an online store was never going to be able to sustain consumer demand.
Now that the hype has died down and people have gotten over the absurd fact that they can legally order weed online from the government, it seems the OCS’ level of mediocrity has diminished.
Either consumer demand has dropped or people have gone back to obtaining their recreational pot illegally.
The crack-down on dispensaries in Toronto has been successful for the most part, though some continue to risk it and stay open. There are sites that illegally ship cannabis products and independent dealers who continue to make their livings.
These retail stores can’t come soon enough.
The grey area between the legalization date and the arrival of retail stores on April 1 has been frustrating for consumers.
One thing is for sure: Ontarians love their pot. Not to say cannabis regulation shouldn’t be in the government’s hands, but it seems they may not have planned for the demand to be this high.
Hopefully the arrival of retail stores brings peace to consumers and weed will finally feel not only legal, but accessible.