Tuesday is the final day for illegal cannabis dispensaries to close, with the Ontario government threatening that if they don’t, they’ll be blocked from the legal retail market when it opens in April, 2019.
“Anyone operating a storefront after Oct. 17 is doing so illegally,” the Ontario Attorney General’s office said in a statement Monday.
“Failure to comply with the rules, whether provincial or federal, would preclude someone from obtaining a Retail Operator’s Licence.”
Dispensary owners across the province – at least the ones unwilling to risk a future in legal retail – appear to be heeding the warning en masse, planning to shutter their stores before legalization comes into force on Wednesday. Since Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government scrapped their Liberal predecessor’s plans for government-run stores in favour of a private retail model, the illegal dispensaries have been offered a route into the legal market. For now, the Ford government is only offering an online cannabis retailer as a stop-gap while the province works to issue licences to private retailers. If the dispensaries want one of those licences, they can’t be running afoul of the law when it comes into effect.
“That message has been delivered loud and clear,” said Trina Fraser, a prominent lawyer who advises on the cannabis industry.
Fraser, co-managing partner at Brazeau Seller Law, said she tells dispensary owners: “I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a licence, but I can certainly guarantee you that you won’t if you don’t cease operations by Wednesday.”