TORONTO — Selling legal pot somewhere other than government-run stores in Ontario would be "reckless," the province's premier said Wednesday, slamming comments from Tory leader Doug Ford, who said he'd be open to greater privatization of cannabis sales.
Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberals face an election this spring, said the concept of wider retail access to recreational marijuana would upset parents who want strict controls in place when the drug is legalized later this year.
"I think that a lot of parents would have concern about cannabis being available beside candy bars in corner stores," she said. "I think there would be a recklessness to doing what Doug Ford is suggesting."
Ford, who was narrowly elected leader of the province's Progressive Conservatives late Saturday, has told media outlets he's open to greater privatization of marijuana sales, adding that the government should move slowly on the issue.
"This is a new avenue, we're going down a path that no one really knows," Ford told CBC Ottawa this week. "Right now we're going to sit down with the caucus and I've always been open to a fair market. I let the market dictate. I don't like the government controlling anything, no matter what it is."
Wynne said her Liberal government did a lot of research before deciding on its plan to closely regulate the sale of cannabis, which will be restricted to those 19 and over.
"We took a lot of time to figure out how to do distribution safely and responsibly," she said. "That's what people expect. That's what people expect of government."
Ontario plans to roll out an initial wave of 40 government-run stores this summer, which are expected to grow in number to 150 by the end of 2020. It will also manage the sale of cannabis through an online portal. The province's pot-selling agency will be known as the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Wynne said her priority when it came to the sale of legal pot was the safety of young people.
"I think that we need to be careful," she said. "It's a bit surprising that talking about the distribution of cannabis is what (Ford) would be talking about on his first day as the leader."
Ford's comments were also criticized by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the agency that will run the province's pot stores.
"He's already acting like he's premier, but he is spouting off about privatizing the sale of alcohol and cannabis, without giving any thought to the consequences," OPSEU president Warren 'Smokey' Thomas said in a statement. "His superficial grasp of the issues proves he's all tip and no iceberg."
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press