Punished by disappointing sales due to a lack of retail stores, the cannabis industry has been mounting a fierce lobbying drive in Ontario to reach the decisionmakers driving the province’s marijuana policies, according to records from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.
Over the past month, lobbyists have beat a path to Ontario’s legislature to discuss – among other things related to cannabis – taxation, labor policies, law enforcement and how adult-use marijuana is sold in the province.
The records show that efforts have been made to reach Ontario’s power brokers by:
- Aurora Cannabis
- Convenience Industry Council of Canada
- Cronos Group
- The Green Organic Dutchman
- Insurance Bureau of Canada
- Supreme Cannabis Co.
Meanwhile, a former member of the ruling Progressive Conservative caucus is urging the party to adopt a clearer timeline for the planned pivot to an open allocation of adult-use retail stores.
Independent MPP Randy Hillier said Ontario’s bungled cannabis policies are costing the province, and its businesses, millions in lost economic opportunities.
“Here we have a government that promotes itself as ‘open for business,’ and what is the biggest impediment in the cannabis trade right now? Government’s lack of action and preventing people (from) opening retail establishments,” the independent MPP said in an interview.
He called Ontario’s cannabis lottery a “cluster you-know-what.”
The fledgling industry has already lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, according to Craig Wiggins, managing director of market researcher TheCannalysts.
That has caused some producers to scale back production.
Hillier called on the government to empower the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to license cannabis stores.
“We have 24 stores in operation a year out from legalization to serve 14 million people,” he said. “Newfoundland, with a population of 500,000 people, has as many stores as Ontario. Saskatchewan has twice as many with a population of a million people.
“We’re not achieving what we set out to with the legalization of cannabis, which is to get it out of the criminal marketplace. We’re allowing the criminal marketplace to continue to thrive.”
Ontario’s recent Economic Outlook restated the commitment to “an open allocation of cannabis retail store licenses where the number of stores is limited only by market demand,” however no timeline was offered.
Hillier’s advice to legal cannabis businesses is to speak up.
“If government policies are creating barriers for your businesses, then speak out.
“Bark as loud as possible, and possibly bite. That’s what often motivates government, is fear of embarrassment and fear of having to justify their actions.”
Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto, Ontario. He can be reached at [email protected].