By Perry Lefko

Barrie is among the 14 cities the Government of Ontario has identified that will have stand-alone cannabis stores by July, 2018.

The Ministry of Finance and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario announced on November 3 where recreational marijuana will be sold.

The news was the latest announcement as part of the federal government’s plan in April, 2016 to legalize the sale of cannabis by July, 2017. The provinces were assigned the task of forming their own distribution system.

In addition to Barrie, the cities include: Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor.

The announcement said that over over the coming weeks, staff from the Ministry of Finance and the LCBO will meet with staff at the identified municipalities to discuss the guidelines and process for citing stores and local interests. Forty stores will be included in the initial launch of selling cannabis.

“The guidelines will achieve our objectives of protecting youth by ensuring stores are not in close proximity to schools, while providing access within communities and addressing the illegal market,” the news release said. “As part of the engagement with municipalities, when a specific store site is identified, a public notice will be posted on the Ontario government’s website and at the physical site. The public will have the opportunity to submit questions and comments on the intended site before it is confirmed.”

Additional municipalities intended for stores by July 2018 will also be identified. Consumers in all regions of Ontario will have access to cannabis through an online channel.

Forty stores will be the first the outlets of what are scheduled to be 150 stand-alone stores by 2020.

The Ontario government set 19 as the minimum age for purchasing marijuana from LCBO stores.