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Subjects: AVO, MAT

OPSEU President demands Ford allow LCBO to compete for new cannabis stores

TORONTO, Aug. 26, 2019 /CNW/ - As the cannabis criminal market continues to thrive across the province, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that the Ford government allow the LCBO to compete for new cannabis-store licenses.

"The private sector has had more than a year to set up the legal cannabis system, but has failed us at every turn," said Thomas. "We still have too few stores and there have even been instances of companies falling prey to organized crime.

"It's time to clean up this mess and put the good of our kids and our communities ahead of profiteers and gangsters. It's time to let the LCBO do what it does best: sell a controlled substance in a responsible way that ensures maximum revenue for our vital public services."

Since abruptly changing course on the previous government's responsible plan to sell cannabis through a public system, the Ford government's cannabis privatization scheme has led to more chaos and more crime. Under the previous government's plan to sell cannabis publicly, there would now be up to 80 cannabis stores open across the province. Instead, there are still less than 25, giving the criminal market room to expand and entrench.

"Failure isn't a strong enough word for Mr. Ford's privatization scheme ? it's an utter disaster," said OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. "The premier chose to give his pals in the private sector a big cut of cannabis profits, and the people of Ontario are paying the price."

Almeida says it's ironic that a government claiming to be a champion of open competition is forbidding one of the industry's strongest competitors from entering the market.

"The LCBO is tried, tested, and true," said Almeida. "By preventing it from competing, the premier is making it painfully clear that he's not actually interested in competition. He's interested in rewarding his corporate backers and party insiders."

Thomas points out that nearly a quarter of the province's municipalities are so suspicious of private cannabis retailers that they've banned them from their communities.

"Polling and experience show us that Ontarians want cannabis retailers that can be trusted to put people over profits," said Thomas. "At the very least, Ford should give municipalities that have opted out of private cannabis the opportunity to say yes to a publicly owned and managed cannabis retailer. Retrofit existing LCBO stores, and it could happen very quickly.

"Competition should be a two-way street, but I suspect that's the last thing the premier wants to promote. Letting the LCBO and its frontline workers show what they can do would just make his private sector pals look even worse than they already do. "

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

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