Ontario is introducing changes to how cannabis and alcohol are sold and consumed across the province as part of the Ford government's first budget.  Revealed yesterday during Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli's announcement, the provincial government will invest $40 million over the next two years to facilitate cost implementation of recreational cannabis. The news comes at the same time as the announcement of Ontario's new alcohol regulations, which include things like tailgating, drinking in public parks and the sale of alcohol in corner stores.

Most notably, the Ontario PC government has proposed lifting the cap on the number of retail cannabis stores authorized to operate across the province, Global News reports.  Starting April 1st, only 25 retail outlets in Ontario were legally permitted to sell pot to customers - now, it seems that Doug Ford wants to change that.

The budget document mentions, "The government remains committed to moving towards an open allocation of licences where the number of stores is limited only by market demand."

According to the budget, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will pre-qualify operators that show serious interest in selling legal weed, accelerating the process of opening of more licensed stores throughout the province. 

Ford's government is also enlisting the federal government's support to resolve the Canada-wide cannabis supply shortage issues that retailers are currently experiencing.  The PCs are asking to ensure an adequate and predictable supply of recreational cannabis from licensed producers is available for commercial sale year-round.

But that's not the only news that has many Ontarians applauding the Ford government's first budget.  The province is also planning to modify alcohol regulations, changing the way booze is sold and consumed throughout Ontario.

The new budget's official documents explain, "Ontario's Government for the People respects adult consumers by trusting them to make responsible choices that work for them."  The documents describe the provincial government's move to expand the sale of alcohol to corner, big-box, and more grocery stores, and that the expansion is based on the feedback received from over 33,000 consumers and businesses that informed the province of their views on alcohol choice and convenience in Ontario.

The Ford government promises to "deliver improved choice for consumers and more opportunities for businesses" by introducing the following changes:

  • Municipalities will be able to create their own rules to determine where alcohol can be legally assumed in public spaces (such as parks.)

  • Tailgating parties that would allow sports fans to consume alcohol at professional sporting events, semi-pro events, and eligible college and university events.

  • The extension of the hours of alcohol service at licensed establishments, such as bars, restaurants, and golf courses, to begin at 9 a.m. every day of the week. 

  • The potential extension of last call for alcohol sale beyond 2 a.m. 

  • Increased flexibility for wineries, cideries, breweries, and distilleries to market products without enforcing prescribed serving sizes.

  • Pausing a wine tax increase that was scheduled to take effect April 1st, 2019.

  • The modification of regulations to permit "happy hour" advertising.

  • Lower beer costs at Royal Canadian Legion halls by autumn of this year.

  • Permitting casinos to serve free alcohol. 

The budget documents also state, "Since August 27, 2018, people have bought more than 76,000 cases of buck-a-beer. Consumers can continue to buy buck-a-beer products at select LCBO locations and online on holiday long weekends."

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