Russell Bennett

Theft under

LCBO - THE BEER STORE - OCS

April 21, 2018 - by Russell Bennett

I’m sitting in the LCBO parking lot in my car, waiting for my wife to buy a couple of bottles of wine and a six pack of beer.

Right across the street is a giant BEER STORE, and I’m thinking, “It’s hard to believe, but one day soon I’ll be sitting in the parking lot of an OCS - the most unsexy name for a cannabis store on the planet: Ontario Cannabis Store.”

It’s about as unsexy as the name of this law firm.

The thought of being able to buy weed legally from a STORE gives me a big smile. Because for my whole adult life, I have lived in the shadows, buying pot from some guy at an undisclosed location, or delivered to me by a courier, sneaking around in the alley ways just so I could smoke a joint every once in a while. The whole process made me feel like a “criminal.” And I guess I was.

My wife comes out of the LCBO with some wine and beer and says, “There was a robbery [aka theft], that’s why it took so long. A woman hid some bottles under her jacket and just walked out, yelling, ‘No, I don’t have anything to declare!’ The woman got into a white van, which took off, while an LCBO employee wrote down the licence plate number.”

I am disappointed by the Ontario government’s decision to control the distribution of cannabis as a monopoly. I do not think it is the government’s job to sell marijuana; it’s the government’s job to regulate the sale of marijuana.

The LCBO model does not protect the public from the harms of alcohol any more than the Milk Board protects consumers from bad milk. The government role should be focused on ensuring the quality of the products and the safety of the public, not on making money from sales.

I may be a dreamer, but I would like to see alcohol sold in Ontario by regulated private retailers of different sizes from Mom and Pop stores to big box chains like Loblaws and it’s subsidiary No Frills are doing now. There needs to be competition in the marketplace, overseen by the government, as Alberta does.

And I’d like to see cannabis sold the same way, by private retailers who are regulated by the government.

I don’t know if the LCBO thief was ever caught, but thankfully it wasn’t at gunpoint. Theft is an unfortunate fact of life of retailing, but the government itself should not be robbing the public’s freedom to sell plants or stunting the industry’s ability to grow safely, it should just regulate.