TORONTO — Months after saying it would not cap the number of licences for retail pot shops after cannabis was legalized, the Ontario government has reversed course, saying it will now only be able to issue 25 licences by April.In a statement Thursday evening, the province says it plans to take a “phased approach” to authorizing retail cannabis outlets because of “severe supply shortages” across the country.Only a limited number of licences will be handed out for the launch of private retailers on April 1, with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario implementing a lottery system to determine who is eligible. The results will be announced in January, the government says.Crop failures, bankruptcies and U.S. competition: Why 2019 could be a complicated year for cannabisExploding demand for pot fuelling a jobs boom that has Canadian firms importing workers to keep upCanada’s cannabis shortage is so severe retailers watch 24/7 for chance to scoop up fresh supply“Taking into consideration the required investments for a prospective Ontario private legal retailer, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licences,” said a joint statement from Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney.When the Progressive Conservative government introduced legislation to create a regulatory regime for cannabis sales in August, it said it expected a flood of applications from those looking to run private stores. There could be as many as 1,000 retail pot shops in the province after cannabis was legalized, the Tories said at the time.There were to be no caps on the number of stores when the retail model launched, but the government’s legislation allowed for flexibility when it came to the concentration of stores in individual markets.On Thursday, the province blamed the federal government for the cannabis shortage, saying the Liberals must address the issue.“We will continue to urge the federal government to take immediate action to ensure licensed producers ramp up production in order to meet the anticipated market demand for recreational cannabis,” the statement said.The Progressive Conservative plan for pot was a stark change from the previous Ontario Liberal government’s rules.The Liberals had planned to open 40 government-run retail cannabis shops by the summer of 2018, with the network of stores to expand to 150 by 2020.The Tories changed the cannabis retail model because they said expanding the number of stores and moving to a private system would better address demand and curb black market sales.NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh said the government’s decision will only help the illegal cannabis market to thrive.“The Liberal plan to open just 40 cannabis storefronts was a disaster waiting to happen — an open invitation to the illegal cannabis market to operate in Ontario,” Singh said in a statement.“(Premier) Doug Ford’s change of plan to restrict the number of cannabis stores to just 25 is going to make that problem so much worse.”The Cannabis Council of Canada, an industry group representing licensed producers, applauded the Ford government’s decision, calling it a “measured and responsible approach.”“We feel that this will help us ensure that stores are well stocked with the quality cannabis Ontarians demand with the consistency they expect,” executive director Allan Rewak said in an email.“For anyone who might be disappointed in the initial number of stores, I would say that we must remember that legalization is a process, not an act.”The announcement comes on the same day councillors in Toronto and Ottawa voted to allow privately operated retail stores to open within their boundaries.The only legal way for Ontario residents to currently acquire recreational weed is through a government-run website, the Ontario Cannabis Store, which has experienced its own shortages.
Referrals from calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline more than tripled the amount made in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the NSPCC has said.The scale was revealed as former Newcastle United striker David Eatock became the latest footballer to tell police he was sexually abused in the sport.The NSPCC said more than 860 calls had been made to the helpline in its first week after it was launched on November 23 to support the victims of child sex abuse within football. Its chief executive, Peter Wanless, said there had been a “staggering surge” in the amount of people getting in touch.He said: “The number of high-profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country.”We have had a staggering surge in calls to our football hotline, which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport.” The helpline was set up with the support and funding of the Football Association after former player Andy Woodward said he had been abused as a young player.Within two hours of the opening of the helpline, the charity said it had been contacted 50 times by members of the public. Within the first three days, it had made 60 referrals to the police or children’s services.The charity made 17 such referrals In the same time frame following the opening of its Savile helpline in 2012. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Mr Wanless said anyone who wishes to contact the helpline “can do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported”.”In future, footballers – both young players and former athletes – must have the confidence to open up about sexual abuse and feel able to come forward,” he said.Mr Eatock, now 40, has said that after he joined Newcastle at 18, George Ormond, a former club youth coach, indecently assaulted him and performed a sex act in front of him in two separate incidents, the Guardian reported.Ormond was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.