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editorial

Part of cannabis laws and regulations

When Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives won office in June, the looming national legalization of cannabis four months later seemed to leave them with a couple of bad options for managing its sale.

Given the problems the issue poses with some of their more socially conservative supporters, the Tories could have used the tight timeframe as an excuse to stick with the plan inherited from Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to sell marijuana through about 150 government-run stores – a model that seemed insufficient in scale and consumer appeal to compete with the black market.

Or they could have rushed through a preferred alternative to meet the deadline, without enough time to avoid logistical chaos, which might have been in keeping with the new government’s great hurry on everything from ending carbon pricing to overhauling Toronto’s municipal governance.

Instead, to their credit, the PCs are taking some time to try to implement a plan that makes more sense.

On Monday, Doug Ford’s government confirmed that, as The Globe and Mail first reported last month, it will shift to a distribution model built around private retail outlets, with the government in charge of wholesale supply.

But it will do so more slowly than might have been anticipated, with brick-and-mortar outlets promised to open by April 1, 2019, not immediately upon legalization in October. In between, pot will only be legally available through a government-run online store.

Even with that delay, implementation is liable to be chaotic. Bumps in the road are inevitable as provinces enter new territory, particularly if they’re relatively ambitious about it.

At Monday’s announcement, government ministers were vague about the process of setting up the retail system and promised further consultation. And the province’s vow to give municipalities a one-time window in which they can refuse to host stores could add another layer of complication.

The devil, as ever, will be in the details. But Mr. Ford’s government is off to a good start in establishing a broadly sensible approach to pot sales that stands a reasonable chance of bringing them out from underground, and giving itself some runway to implement it.

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