With privatization of cannabis, criminal element has scored with Ford

"Private sales of recreational cannabis would be a bonanza for organized crime. They could legitimately get licences to distribute cannabis – and get very wealthy doing it." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (30 July 2018) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is outraged over media reports that Premier Doug Ford will allow cannabis sales in private stores.

"What on earth are they smoking at Queen’s Park?" said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU/NUPGE. "Private sales of recreational cannabis would be a bonanza for organized crime. They could legitimately get licences to distribute cannabis – and get very wealthy doing it. Does the Premier’s definition of ‘little guy’ include mobsters and other criminals?”

Focus on profits means private stores more likely to cut corners on safety

Shortly after the election, Ford said he was focusing on cannabis being sold in Ontario Cannabis Stores, to be run like the LCBO.

"That approach is the best way to keep the drug out of the hands of teenagers," said Thomas. "The minimum age must be enforced by a trained and accountable customer service clerk unmotivated by profit. But can anyone seriously deny it’ll be very tempting to ring up a sale by cutting a few corners? The profit motive should not be a consideration."

LCBO has proven track record of putting safety first

Thomas added that, in contrast, the LCBO has a proven track record of keeping alcohol away from vulnerable individuals. Staff get extensive and ongoing training on regulating sales — with a clear priority placed on safety and responsibility.

"Each year, hundreds of thousands of customers are refused service. That means uncounted lives saved and tragedy averted," Thomas said. “That level of responsibility simply can’t be enforced in thousands of private dispensaries.”

Effective monitoring of private stores will push up costs

Thomas also pointed to the nightmarish cost to the provincial and municipal governments for policing and enforcement.

“This is a hugely expensive download from the private sector onto taxpayers. And how is this being a friend of the police? Don’t they have enough on their hands with guns, gangs and organized crime? Didn’t police already devote precious resources to shutting down these illegal operators?" Thomas added.

“I said it before, the privatization of cannabis sales is a stupid idea,” Thomas said. “During the provincial campaign, Ford reaffirmed the provincially run model after musing about privatization. So he flipped, he flopped and now, after consultation with the criminal element, he’s flipped again."

“His motto of ‘for the people’ is a sham. Criminals and lawbreakers win with this model. They certainly scored with Ford. I urge the Premier to reconsider his position. If it’s about infrastructure cost, he can certainly save truckloads of money by placing the sale of cannabis in the existing LCBO stores.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE