By Daniel Otis

Pot activist Jodie Emery is slamming the Ontario government’s decision to sell recreational marijuana solely through a provincial control board.

“They’re going to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars setting up a massive bureaucracy to try and reinvent a wheel that’s already rolling and spinning quite fine,” Emery told CTV Power Play on Friday. “It’s insane.”

Emery was referring to the storefront marijuana dispensaries that have been popping up across the country. Ontario’s plan seeks to aggressively shutter such businesses.

“We’re instituting a proven and sure manner, which is a controlled measure, and that’s why we’re using the LCBO expertise and back office knowledge to initiate something that has been proven to work,” Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa told Power Play, defending his government’s proposed retail monopoly. Sousa also condemned the country’s dispensaries.

“They don’t pay the appropriate tax, they don’t contribute to the communities, they don’t reinvest in education, in healthcare, in drug addiction, in enforcement,” he said. “These dispensaries are illegal, they were illegal before, they continue to be illegal now, and we’re going to make every effort to eliminate and drive down the illicit use of that activity.”

Emery, however, says that Ontario is missing the point when it comes to legalization.

“Stop criminalizing the existing industry,” Emery, who co-owns a dispensary chain with her activist husband Marc Emery, said. “That’s what legalization is supposed to legalize: the growers and sellers who are peaceful and nonviolent.”

Ontario’s pot plan, she added, only takes the province’s immediate interests into account.

“The government and the police win and the taxpayers and dispensaries and the patients all lose,” she said. “This monopoly will ensure there’s not enough money, there’s not enough jobs… It’s going to deny Ontario resident the ability to grow the economy with independent retailers.”

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