More cannabis stores will open their doors in Ontario next year

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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As of January 2020, Ontario’s cannabis consumers will have a steady supply of bud. The news comes following the Government of Ontario’s amendment of cannabis regulations in the central Canadian province, where the plant was legalized along with the rest of the “Great White North” following the Cannabis Act‘s passing in October 2018.

The removal of a temporary cap on privately-operated cannabis dispensaries will enable retailers to sidestep the pre-qualification requirements for launching a legal weed business. With a thriving black market in Canada, the amendment has been well received. 

“In response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis, our government is determined to open the cannabis market as responsibly as possible,” Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement. “We have said all along that opening more legal stores is the most effective way to combat the illicit market, protect our kids and keep our communities safe. That is our number one priority.”

What other amendments have been made to Ontario’s cannabis regulations?

In addition to providing cannabis retail owners in Ontario with an opportunity to better navigate the waters of “cannapreneurialship”, the Government of Ontario’s regulation amendments also opens new doors for producers. As per changes to the province’s cannabis rules, licensed producers can also operate stores at their facilities.

Furthermore, all of Ontario’s licensed cannabis retailers will now be allowed to sell a variety of alternative weed-inspired items, such as cannabis cookbooks, magazines and more. The Government’s motive for making these changes to Ontario’s cannabis rules is to speed up the rate at which legal stores can open, as well as assist legal stores in launching faster.

Applications for operator licenses can be submitted by prospective cannabis retailers in Ontario beginning January 6, 2020. The application process will be dealt with by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The AGCO anticipates that it will begin providing licenses from April onwards; 20 will be distributed per month, with store authorization rates likely to increase as time progresses.

In an effort to enhance safety for children and of-age consumers, license applications will be rejected if the applicant has been committed of a cannabis-related offence and/or was involved in organized crime. Approved training must be carried out by all employees, managers and license holders who are actively operating in Ontario’s cannabis retail stores. 

An overview of Ontario’s cannabis market

All cannabis retailers operating in Ontario must abide by the rules laid out in the Cannabis Licence Act. Additionally, it is imperative that the AGCO’s Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores are adhered to by retailers. 

Up until August 31, 2020, no more than 10 cannabis dispensaries can be owned by a retail operator in Ontario. This figure will increase to 30 by the following month, before creeping up to 75 in September 2021. Dispensary owners will have the opportunity to use their brick-and-mortar store, as well as sell products online utilizing a click-and-collect service.

When it comes to determining where dispensaries will be located, the AGCO requires new retailers to publish a public notice in the location they wish to set up shop. Local communities must submit comments to the AGCO within a 15-day period, before a final decision is made.

You can find out more by visiting the AGCO website.