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editorial

Part of cannabis laws and regulations

Doug Ford, of course, knows a thing or two about private-sector cannabis sales.

Ontario’s new premier was a mid-level hash dealer in 1980s Etobicoke, then a suburb of Toronto, The Globe and Mail has reported. (Mr. Ford denies it.)

But if Premier Ford’s understanding of the cannabis market has its roots in a misspent youth, the legal weed regime he plans to implement, according to another Globe report this week, will bear little resemblance to the drive-thru drug bazaars of Reagan-era suburbia.

Rather, Mr. Ford seems to be proposing a responsible and intelligent framework for the retailing of pot. According to its leaked plans, the province will license private businesses to sell cannabis in bricks-and-mortar shops. That’s a departure from the previous Liberal government’s plan to sell the drug only at government-run Ontario Cannabis Store outlets.

We welcome the change. The government-only approach was condescending, impractical and self-defeating. It said to Ontarians that a substance about 40 per cent of them have used, and which is less harmful than cigarettes or booze, was nevertheless too dangerous for them to purchase at a private store.

The Liberal’s slow roll-out of government shops also risked leaving weed smokers starved of legitimate retail options, pushing users into the already humming black market, whose eradication is a major goal of legalizing pot.

Mr. Ford is not proposing a free-for-all, in any case. Under what we know of his plan, the province will still handle wholesale, distribution and online sales. This has always been the sensible way to go. With strict government regulation of the supply and a minimum-age requirement for buyers, there’s no real public health risk to letting private retailers sell cannabis.

The notion that only government is responsible enough to sell liquor and, until recently, beer and wine, has plagued Ontario for too long. Unfortunately, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario has proved to be too entrenched to dismantle; it would be next to impossible to turn alcohol sales over to the private sector.

Mr. Ford has done well to keep the province from falling into that trap with cannabis.