Loblaw has been advocating for changes in Ontario’s cannabis regulations to enter the cannabis market, according to a report from Global News.
Internal government documents show that the grocery giant has held meetings with officials from the Ford government, including the Attorney General’s office, to push for changes in how the cannabis market operates in the province.
Loblaw has sought to eliminate government regulations that restrict the sale of cannabis within stores where other items like snacks and chocolate are available for purchase, according to the report.
The company initially lobbied for a “store within a store” model, like Wine Racks, within some of its locations. However, current regulations mandate that licensed cannabis stores must be physically separated from other commercial establishments.
In its proposals submitted in the summer and fall of 2022, Loblaws aimed to remove several restrictions, including a regulation that prohibits companies selling medical cannabis from selling recreational cannabis, the report reads. It says the change would benefit Loblaw, which owns Shoppers Drug Mart. The grocery giant also sought to eliminate a rule preventing companies with existing online sales websites from offering cannabis.
Although Loblaw has not yet achieved its main requests, the documents suggest that the company is already investing in the cannabis sector under its C-Shop brand. The C-Shops, located in the same buildings as grocery stores, currently face restrictions like separate entrances and covered windows.
The proposed changes have received mixed reactions. Some argue that they could disproportionately benefit big-box retailers, while others suggest potential benefits for smaller businesses like convenience stores. Critics, including the Ontario NDP, express concerns about favouring big corporations and processes.
The Ontario NDP’s critic for consumer protection, Tom Rakocevic, expressed concerns that granting Loblaws’ requests could result in the government favouring big corporations over community interests.
“(It) won’t be the first time this government makes crucial public policy to favour big corporations… “Communities need to have a say in the future of cannabis retail in their neighbourhoods,” Rakocevic told Global News.
Lobbying records indicate that the company continues its advocacy campaign, with several lobbyists targeting Ford government ministers to bring about changes in cannabis rules, according to Global News.