Ontario Government Opens Market For Private Cannabis Retail


On December 12, 2019, the Ontario Government announced its move to open the market for retail cannabis stores, beginning January 2020. By removing the temporary cap that was placed on the number of private cannabis stores in the province, the Government hopes consumers will be provided with greater choice, convenience and a safe, reliable supply of cannabis.

As a result of the Government’s announcement, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will modify the application process for cannabis retail licensing by introducing the following changes in stages to align with the timelines established by the Government:

  • Increasing the ability of licensed producers to participate in the retail market and allowing them to open a store at one of their production facilities.
  • Phasing in limits on the number of authorized stores a licence holder can have, to ensure fair access for retailers while creating medium and long-term market certainty.
  • Enabling retailers to sell additional items such as cannabis-related magazines and cookbooks. Other items that are directly related to cannabis or its use can be sold in retail stores, but food and beverages are prohibited. Authorized stores may sell cannabis edibles once these products become available for retail in Ontario in January 2020.
  • Offering click and collect services that allow customers to order and pay for products online for in-store pick-up.

Those who wish to operate a cannabis retail store in Ontario must follow a two-step application process with the AGCO. First, they must qualify for a Retail Operator Licence (ROL), which confirms they meet the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations. Second, once licensed, an operator’s proposed physical retail store must qualify for a Retail Store Authorization (RSA), which confirms the store meets the location, layout, security and other requirements set out in the regulations and standards.

**(an operator must qualify for a Retail Operator Licence before they can receive a Retail Store Authorization.)

The AGCO will begin accepting Retail Operator Licence (ROL) applications from all prospective retailers on January 6, 2020.

This includes Licensed Producers, who may apply for a retail store at one production facility. However, the current restriction on the total number of stores (i.e. 93) and their regional distribution will be maintained until March 2, 2020. Until March 2, only applicants who were already selected and notified to apply for a ROL by the Registrar before January 6, 2020 may apply for a Retail Store Authorization (RSA).

On March 2, 2020, the restrictions on the total number of store authorizations permitted in Ontario, and their regional distribution, will be revoked and subsequently, the AGCO will begin accepting applications for Retail Store Authorizations (RSA) from all interested applicants.

The AGCO expects to issue up to 20 RSAs per month as stores become ready. Licensed operators may have up to 10 stores until September 2020, up to 30 until September 2021, and then up to 75 maximum thereafter.

Applicants who were selected in the two cannabis retail lotteries and the allocation process for stores on First Nations reserves will continue through their current processes. If eligible, the AGCO will license these applicants and authorize their stores as soon as those processes are completed. The AGCO has published detailed information on their website regarding the timelines and the application process, including a new infographic which highlights important information about future key dates.

How we can help you

Cannabis License Experts is your solution to preparing, reviewing and submitting your cannabis retail licence application. We offer support from day one of starting your cannabis business, including strategic planning, floor plan preparation, site audits, SOPs and more.

Our Edibles Compliance division can provide you with a solid plan for your edibles business to help get your products on store shelves. Contact us today to discover how we can license and legalize your cannabis business to meet federal or provincial regulations.




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