The Ontario Government is taking the next step to combat the illegal market and protect our youth and communities by moving to the next phase of its plan to license private cannabis retail stores. This is in response to the federal government’s legalization of cannabis and marginal improvements in the federally licensed supply of cannabis.
Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, and Doug Downey, Attorney General, announced today that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the provincial regulator for cannabis retail storefronts, has been given regulatory authority to conduct a second lottery for 42 private cannabis retail store authorizations. Interested parties will be able to submit an expression of interest form online to the AGCO in summer 2019.
The Ontario Government has heard from First Nation communities interested in operating safe and secure retail outlets in their communities. That is why the government is moving forward with allocation of up to eight stores located on First Nations reserves, which will take place through a separate process on a first come, first served basis. The government continues to engage with First Nations interested in developing their own approaches to cannabis to identify how the government can best support efforts by these communities to promote public safety and legal access to cannabis.
“Our government is continuing to take a responsible approach to opening cannabis stores across Ontario, allowing private sector businesses to build a safe and convenient retail system to combat the illegal market,” said Minister Phillips. “With marginal improvements in national supply, we are proceeding to issue up to 50 new cannabis store licences.”
For this next phase, the government has established new pre-qualification requirements that will streamline the licensing process with the AGCO and help ensure the readiness of cannabis retail operator licence applicants. Prospective retailers must demonstrate that they have secured appropriate retail space that could be used as a cannabis retail store and that they have access to enough capital required to open a cannabis retail store. Licensed retail stores may now be opened in any municipality regardless of population size, granted the municipality did not opt-out of the retail cannabis market.
Detailed pre-qualification requirements and all application process and lottery timelines are available on the AGCO website.
“Despite the ongoing federal cannabis supply shortages, Ontario is taking further action to protect young people, keep our roads and communities safe and combat the illegal market in response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis,” said Minister Downey. “While the federal supply issues persist, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licences to businesses. A phased-in approach remains necessary.”
It is the federal government’s responsibility to oversee cannabis production and to provide a viable alternative to the illegal market by ensuring there is enough supply from federally licensed producers to meet consumer demand. The Ontario Government has continued to urge the federal government to take steps to rapidly increase the volume of supply available to the legitimate recreational cannabis market in response to the supply shortage of cannabis across the country. Going forward, the province will continue to monitor the national supply issue and its impact on the legal retail market.