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Published on GlobalNews.ca, Aug. 9, 2016.
The possible sale of pot in LCBO stores has bureaucrats trying to make sense of the hazy marijuana business, taking notes on weed’s funky street names and tamping down any government hopes of a cash crop on the scale of booze, documents show.
Internal slides obtained by Global News through freedom of information show the state liquor giant pondering a range of issues surrounding weed retailing as the drug goes from black market to legit commodity under the Trudeau government’s legalization drive.
While it’s still an open question as to how buyers will get their hands on recreational pot, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her finance minister have repeatedly called for it to be sold exclusively in LCBO stores.
Although Wynne in recent weeks has wavered on that position, she still sees the LCBO as having a hand in the pot trade.
And so sober-minded bureaucrats with the alcohol seller are getting ready to possibly expand into another transformative substance once shackled by prohibition.
The presentation takes notes on other jurisdictions’ legal weed rules and taxes and summarizes Canada’s existing medical marijuana system and suppliers, deeming licensed growers “sophisticated business minds not typical ‘pot-heads.'”
It even compares the tame names used by the medical producers with the “far more creative” monikers used by street dealers — “pineapple express, amnesia haze, purple kush” among them.
Considering the explosion of illegal dispensaries, the LCBO concludes they’ve made a mockery of the existing medical marijuana approach: “the medical regs have failed because the dispensaries have illegitimated the system.”
One slide from the deck, apparently created earlier this year, plots Toronto’s dispensaries on a map alongside LCBO outlets by way of comparison.
Having medical pot sold in the LCBO is also up for the debate, the slides show, though they advise medical producers oppose this.
And while concern is expressed that some more traditional-minded LCBO customers will be “uncomfortable around the product,” the documents point to one recent poll finding a majority of the public on board with legal weed, though more would rather have it sold in standalone dispensaries than the government alcohol chain.
Among the marijuana headaches for the LCBO? How to get the mark-up and prices right — a concern heightened due to worry the illegal market may survive and that pot sales may lower sales of alcohol, though Colorado saw beer sales jump after legalization due to “cannabis tourism,” the slides observe.
And though the slides say it’s “uncertain” just how much profit is to be had from weed, their rough conclusion may deflate any politicians’ dreams of a new revenue stream as high as liquor sales, stating the bottom line would be “Talking hundreds o(f) millions not billions.”
The pot prognostication also points to some possible quality and logistics issues — microbiological testing abilities the LCBO’s labs don’t have and a six-month shelf life before the drug “dries out.”
Plus, when it comes to in-store warehousing, the presentation says LCBO outlets may need to undergo a renovation worthy of a drug kingpin’s mansion.
Photo credit: fw_gadget/Flickr CC