Ontario allowing pot sales in private retail stores April 1

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There will be no physical stores open for cannabis sales in Ontario in October.

Private retailers will have to follow a series of provincial rules, such as prohibiting the sale of cannabis to anyone under the age of 19, according to the province.

Under the new approach, Canada's most populous province will still start selling cannabis online on the legalization date of October 17, using a website run by the provincially owned Ontario Cannabis Store.

Ontario's new conservative government announced it is scrapping the previous administration's plan to allow pot sales only in government-run stores - a model of public ownership that is unusual in the United States.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, who made the announcement today, say municipalities can opt out of hosting any pot shops within their boundaries. A zero-tolerance policy will also be put in place, which will include severely escalating fines for any retailer or dispensary that continues to operate in illicit markets.

The province's online Ontario Cannabis Store will include a verification system that will ensure safe at home delivery for cannabis products and ensuring those making the purchase are 19 or older, the news release said. The Ontario government will also introduce an "Official Ontario Cannabis Retailer Seal" to help consumers identify legitimate retailers and quality-assured products. "We are committed to creating a safe retail model that eliminates the illegal cannabis market in Ontario".

However, not every municipality will see pot sold at the retail level.

Five provinces - British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland - plan to allow private stores to sell recreational cannabis.

"In order to protect our communities, we have to work closely with our municipalities".

They said the private stores will be "tightly regulated".

"By harnessing the power of the private sector, while responsibly regulating cannabis sales for adults, the government of Ontario has removed the capital and operational costs of bricks and mortar retail from taxpayers and shifted this burden to the private sector: A move that will save the treasury countless millions", said Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, an industry group representing major medical marijuana producers, in a release.

Marijuana will be legal across Canada on October 17. "We are taking a balanced and responsible approach to building a system that works".

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