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Press Release

Not the time to rehash half-baked cannabis schemes: OPSEU President Thomas

Publication Date

Monday, August 13, 2018 - 7:00pm

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says Premier Doug Ford is irresponsibly throwing caution to the wind with his move to privatize cannabis sales.

During the debates in the provincial election campaign, candidate Ford pledged to maintain the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) model, and to defer to frontline experts, arguing that they know better than politicians. Despite unwavering support by frontline experts for a fully public model, Premier Ford has abandoned his campaign promise, and announced there will be no OCS stores after all.

“Ontarians are sick of politicians’ broken promises,” said Thomas. “The cannabis lobby is a powerful one, and it’s made up mainly of former Liberal and Tory staffers. If Ford is truly for the people, he wouldn’t give handouts to his friends in high places - he’d listen to the experts, and he’d listen to the people.”

Thomas called on Ford to drop the idea and focus instead on creating a safe and responsible retail model in time for October 17 when cannabis is due to become legal. The idea that municipalities can opt out is a bad joke. Those cities and towns that opt out will be wide open to gang activity - it makes no sense.

“It’s been one step forward, and ten steps back when it comes to cannabis in Ontario,” said Thomas. “With the date of federal legalization fast-approaching, now is not the time to rehash half-baked privatization schemes.”

Thomas also scoffed at the Conservatives’ claim that they are going to widely consult about their decision before they implement it next April Fool’s Day.

“Doug, it’s government 101, you consult the frontline experts first then make your decision, not the other way around, you have it backwards. The experts, including law enforcement, have spoken loudly and clearly in support of a public model."

With a rash of violent incidents over the past few months, OPSEU has continued to raise red flags about the risks of organized crime penetrating the cannabis market.

“The premier is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on public health and safety,” said Thomas. “He’s pouring millions of dollars into allegedly fighting guns and gangs, but throwing all caution to the wind with privatized cannabis sales. This is a costly and dangerous gamble, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“What is this cabinet smoking?” Asked Thomas. “The groundwork’s been done, we’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got the expertise around enforcement in place. We could be retrofitting select LCBOs to include cannabis as we speak; we could have OCS retail locations up and running by October 17, if only this government cared more about people than private profits.

“Looks like the only people that mattered in this decision were political operatives like Will Stewart and the multinationals he claims to represent. Promise made, promise broken.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931