Ontario opens door for more cannabis stores in 2020

Published on December 16, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
ontario authorization sticker
Jesse Milns/Leafly

It took a while, but the wait is finally over.

After two lottery systems and a number of delayed retail openings, Ontario has finally thrown in the towel and announced that, yes, the province will be officially moving to an open market system that removes the cap placed on cannabis licenses.

Instead, the new licensing system may permit an unlimited amount of stores to get licensed over time.

The details have yet to be announced in full.

Last week, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) did reveal that they will begin accepting applications for Retail Operator Licences (ROLs) on Jan. 6, 2020.

Thereafter, they will accept applications for Retail Store Authorizations (RSAs) on Mar. 2, 2020.

A representative from the AGCO indicated that ROL applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis starting Jan. 2, 2020, and that RSA applications will be reviewed similarly. However, not every application will get the green light.

All applications are subject to review, and each application could vary in processing time depending on the complexity of the application. Factors could include the number of shareholders or directors that a company has.

That could mean that due to its lack of complexity, an application for a simple sole proprietorship may be reviewed faster than a corporate applicant.

Over the phone, the AGCO confirmed that while ROL applications would be reviewed starting Jan. 6, anyone can submit an RSA application starting Mar. 2, 2020 as long as they have previously submitted a retail operator licence application–even if their ROL is not actually granted by that time.

Before you get your hopes and dreams up, know that the government only intends to license up to 20 stores per month, starting in April.

Curiously, while both the Ontario government and the AGCO announced the new regulations, and invited users to see the amended Cannabis Act regulations, there was just one problem: the link to the regulations shows it has yet to be updated.

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The provincial government announced that in addition to allowing click-and-collect services, it would also permit existing and new cannabis stores to sell cannabis magazines and cookbooks.

Because the amendments have yet to be published, it’s unclear just how far that new provision goes.

Thinking of applying? The application process can be found here.

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Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and enjoys reading and writing about the regulatory affairs of cannabis in Canada and around the world.
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