On April 1st, Ontario opened up their first official government cannabis stores, following up recreational legalization. Previous to that, a series of black market dispensaries operated across Ontario, most recognizably Toronto. A couple of them remain open, but due to the risk of being fined or shut down, tend to operate under delivery or pickup premises only.
When you go into the Ontario Cannabis Store, you’re forced to read a bunch of marketing jargon in a sleek and expensive, albeit clinical environment. It’s not possible to see any of the flower beforehand - you have to give your budtender the benefit of the doubt, who might not be an expert in cannabis.
Many of the budtenders hired seemed to have little to no knowledge, at least to seasoned stoners, and most of the product was stale due to poor packaging or storage methods. Some product was even reportedly moldy, according to more than a few consumers.
A range of well-known brands like Tweed and Aurora are available, and while some retailers promise better quality than others, it’s essentially a game of Russian Roulette. You might leave with some terrible stuff, or you might get lucky. After purchasing products from a few different brands, there was only one brand by the name of Namaste which had a Sativa of a decent quality.
Instead of enacting SWAT team like raids of dispensaries, charging ridiculous fines and stealing their product, the Ontario government should instead remain focused on empowering small business owners who are properly educated in cannabis and have years of expertise in the industry.
As a result, it’s so far been an unfortunately monopolized industry where you can’t check out the product you're getting beforehand or see the credentials of your server so that you can comfortably put your trust in them. It’s also one that gives a big middle finger to sustainability, which is surprising in the usually eco-friendly Canada.
Whether you purchase one gram of cannabis or five, product is always packaged in an oversized childproof jar or pill bottle, often packaged within an additional plastic or cardboard box. This product seems to be intended to keep the cannabis fresh, but ironically does the opposite - they could easily use the vacuum sealed and odor proof bags that many of the “illegal” dispensaries do for less bulky packaging that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
Ultimately, cannabis legalization and government sanctioned stores in Canada are a win, but the province needs to do better in terms of empowering local and minority businesses that are being trampled on by Big Canna.