By Antonella Artuso
The location for the first stand-alone government recreational pot stores have been announced.
The LCBO-run shops, which are expected to be in operation by July, are located in major urban centres.
“Over the coming weeks, staff from the Ministry of Finance and the LCBO will meet with staff at the identified municipalities to discuss the guidelines and process for siting stores and local interests,” a government statement issued Friday said.
“The guidelines will achieve our objectives of protecting youth by ensuring stores are not in close proximity to schools, while providing access within communities and addressing the illegal market.”
Local municipalities will have input into where the stores are located, the statement says.
At the same time that the government is opening up cannabis stores, officials will be cracking down on private pot dispensaries.
The first municipalities to get stand-alone government pot stores are Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor.
The number of stores is expected to grow over time and online sales are in the works.
Customers will have to be at least 19 years old to buy recreational marijuana, and at least 18 years old to be in possession of it.
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 regard…We feel very comfortable that the regime that we will put in place will be a significant deterrent for these illegal businesses.”