The Ontario ombudsman has received more than 2,400 complaints about the provincial government’s online cannabis store since recreational marijuana was legalized in October 2018.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé said his office received a 30% surge in complaints in 2018/19 as the total number reached 27,419. The launch of the Ontario online cannabis store was a major factor in that spike as it struggled with delays, delivery problems, and customer service issues.

The ombudsman’s office had to install a dedicated team to work with the store staff, flagging issues and resolve complaints as quickly as possible.

“Political change and the administrative changes that go with it tend to make offices like ours busier, as the public and government officials alike seek answers about everything from good governance practices to the execution of political decisions,” said Dubé.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren Thomas said he is not surprised the ombudsman was inundated with complaints. He accused Premier Doug Ford of ignoring the “responsible” plan for a recreational cannabis framework that his union helped create.

Thomas claimed that Ford was paying off “insiders and rich backers” by pursuing a different framework, resulting in a handful of profit-driven businesses and a black market that continues to thrive. He also laid into the Ford government on various other matters.

Legal cannabis sales more than doubled in Ontario during April as stores began to open across the province. Sales were just $7 million to $8 million per month under the online only system between October 2018, when adult use cannabis was legalized in Canada, and March 2019.

Statistics Canada data shows that Ontarians were spending between $0.50 and $0.60 per month during that time on a per capita basis, but the figure shot up to $1.36 in April after private brick-and-mortar stores finally began to open. In total, sales reached $19.6 million.

That makes Ontario the largest market for recreational cannabis sales in Canada, overtaking Quebec and Alberta. However, it has the second lowest per capita spend in the country, so there is a significant opportunity to grow the nascent industry.

New stores are being rolled out across Ontario all the time and sales should increase going forward, bringing in more tax revenue for the province.

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