OTTAWA — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says storefront shops selling marijuana will continue to blur the lines of the law around pot until the federal government clarifies the rules around the use of recreational weed.
The federal government plans to unveil new legislation next spring that would legalize cannabis. In the meantime, cities have seen a growing number of marijuana dispensaries open up.
Wynne says cities and provinces remain confused over what to do with those pot shops because Ottawa has yet to clarify rules between recreational and medicinal marijuana.
"That clarification hasn't happened and I think there is some blurring of the line," she said.
"We're a bit in the weeds.
"But I do think that as the federal government gets its legislation and its protocols in place, it will be clearer what then the provinces need to follow through with."
The federal Liberals new law to legalize the use and regulate the sale of marijuana won't land in Parliament until one year's time in the spring of 2017. Even then, it may take months to pass and, and months more to come into force to give provinces and cities time to prepare for the new marijuana marketplace.
Liberal MP and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, the government's pointman on pot, has stressed Criminal Code provisions on marijuana must be enforced as the government considers a legalized regime.
In anticipation of the law and the potential for a financial windfall from legalized pot sales, independent stores have started to spring up in cities catering to medicinal users. The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries says there are about 350 such stores now operating in the country, some of them licenced, others working under the radar.
Vancouver started cracking down on unlicensed dispensaries last week, handing out $11,000 in fines to stores that remained open despite warnings from city hall.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Friday morning that the growth in dispensaries in his city was on the verge of being out-of-control and hinted at a crackdown on the shops in the absence of direction from the federal government.
Police agencies have also complained publicly that the discussion surrounding legalization has created confusion, particularly for front line cops.
"I'm afraid we're in a bit of a moment right now where the discussion has not been clarified between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana," Wynne said during an event Friday in Ottawa.
"We need to understand what the rules and regulations are going to be around recreational marijuana."
Wynne has publicly mused about selling marijuana through the provincially-run liquor stores. Galen Weston, the head of Loblaws, said this week that the company would be open to dispensing medical cannabis at grocery story and Shoppers Drug Mart locations.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Friday morning it was premature to say where marijuana will be distributed until the federal Liberals table their new pot law.
"We'll see from there what restrictions are going to be put in place," he said.