By Star Editorial Board

When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals campaigned on making cannabis legal in 2015 they got cheers from young voters and nods of approval from many others who believe it’s the best way to curb the black market and end the needless and costly criminalization of pot smokers.

And yet here we are, two months after cannabis was declared legal, and it’s seemingly harder to get than ever. All three levels of government, either through bureaucratic incompetence or actual design, have conspired to essentially negate cannabis’ new legal status.

Ottawa imposed regulations and licensing requirements that are so tough one Toronto-based company said growing cannabis within the rules in Canada is “quite frankly more difficult than anywhere else in the world.”

So, the country that has chosen to embrace weed is the hardest place to grow it. How does that make sense?

Certainly, there were some tight timelines to start with because of the Senate’s delay in passing the legislation. And Health Canada has been taking steps to improve licensing and increase the approved production capacity. But when the government acknowledges that the product shortages will continue for months and industry insiders say they’re more likely to persist for years, clearly more needs to be done.

Canada won’t reap the benefits that should come from legalization if store shelves across the country sit empty. And then there’s Ontario, which still doesn’t actually have any legally operating stores.

Premier Doug Ford tossed the former Liberal government’s plan to immediately start sales through 40 government-run stores. The Ford government, quite rightly, said a private retail system would better address consumer demand and curb the black market. It said there would have to be a six-month delay until April, 2019, but then there could be as many as 1,000 pot shops. Until last Thursday, that is.

Now, Ontario is taking a “phased approach.” The government will issue just 25 retail licences for the entire province — coincidentally the same number of councillors that Ford thinks it takes to run Toronto, the largest city. And the government is blaming this on Trudeau and the federal government for failing to ensure adequate supply.

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