The AGCO Announces Burden Reduction Change for Cannabis Retail Operator Licensees


The AGCO has recently announced a burden reduction change for Cannabis Retail Operator Licencees. In support of this announcement, the AGCO has amended Standard 1.3 of the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores to allow Cannabis Retail Manager Licences (RMLs) to oversee more than one single cannabis retail store location. This will allow businesses more flexibilities when it comes to assigning Licensed Retail Managers to stores, as 1 Manager will be able to manage up to five (5) cannabis retail store locations.

Under the Regulations, every cannabis retail store in Ontario must have at least 1 Licensed Retail Manager, who is responsible for performing tasks such as:

  • supervising, managing, or hiring employees of the store
  • managing the sale of cannabis
  • managing compliance issues relating to the sale of cannabis
  • buying cannabis for the store
  • entering into contracts for the store. 

The only exception to this requirement is if the Licensed Retail Operator is a sole proprietor or is in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the Licensed Operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store – in which case a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence is not required.

A Cannabis Retail Manager Licence must be obtained prior to managing any cannabis retail store locations and the cost for this licence application is $750/licence.

The announcement of this amendment will provide license holders with additional relief and reducesreduce administrative burden as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about difficult circumstances. These changes will also provide substantial cost savings since fewer managers will be required, meaning fewer wages to pay, fewer licenclicensee applications, and fewer renewal fees.

Now that 1 Licensed Retail Manager can oversee multiple locations, a record of the locations for which a Retail Manager is accountable is now required to be submitted to the AGCO (see subsection 9 of Registrar’s Standard 8.1). Furthermore, Cannabis Retail Operators must retain an up-to-date document stating each location for which their Licensed Retail Managers are accountable. This record must be made readily available for review upon the request of AGCO Compliance Officials.

Currently, there is no requirement established that requires a Retail Manager to be on-site at the retail store during all operating hours. Rather, it is the responsibility of the Cannabis Retail Operator to ensure oversight of their cannabis retail store operations across all locations, regardless of whether or not a Retail Manager is physically on-site.

More Information on Securing your Licences and Authorizations

To open and operate a cannabis retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must secure a Retail Operator Licence (ROL) and a Retail Store Authorization (RSA) from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Also, you must have at least 1 Licensed Retail Manager for your store, as outlined above.

Retail Operator Licence

The first license you need to apply for is the Retail Operator Licence (ROL). You can apply for this license as an individual/sole proprietor, a partnership, or a corporation. The ROL will confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations. For more information on roles, click here. To apply for a Retail Operator Licence, you must make the non-refundable $6,000 Retail Operator Licence fee payment.

Part of the ROL process includes police and background checks which will be conducted on applicants, and persons interested in the applicant, as needed, to determine eligibility for the issuance of the license. Once approved, you will receive a Retail Operator Licence, which will contain your license number, expiry date, and any conditions on the license.

After your ROL application has been submitted (or the ROL has been granted), your proposed physical store(s) must qualify for a Retail Store Authorization (see #2 below), which confirms the store meets the location, layout, security, and other requirements set out in the regulations and standards.

Retail Store Authorization

The next step after submitting a ROL application is to apply for a Retail Store Authorization (RSA) for each retail location you intend to open. To apply for an RSA, you must either hold a valid ROL issued by the AGCO or have applied for a ROL with the AGCO. Applications for both an RSA and ROL can be submitted at the same time, but the ROL will be issued before the RSA is granted.

To apply for a Retail Store Authorization, you must make the non-refundable $4,000 Retail Store Authorization fee payment.

To be eligible for a Retail Store Authorization, the following criteria should be met since there are some places where you cannot open a cannabis retail store:

  • Ensure you have applied for or hold a Retail Operator Licence
  • Ensure the proposed location for your retail store is less than 150 meters away from the property line of a school or private school.
  • Contact the municipality where the store will be located and confirm that the proposed retail store meets local municipal requirements for retail store siting
  • Review the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores to ensure you understand the requirements for your store
  • Ensure that the operating name of the proposed retail store complies with all applicable Federal/Provincial legislation related to advertising and promotion.

If you are a Licensed Producer or one of its affiliates, you are eligible to apply for a single RSA. In this case, the proposed cannabis retail store must be located on or within the site set out in the federally issued production license.

Open for Business

After your cannabis retail store has secured all of the necessary licenses and authorizations and passed the necessary inspections, you’ll be ready for opening. Keep in mind, there are rules and regulations you must follow when operating your store. It’s important to be compliant from day one, to follow a smooth pathway through licensing, and ensure your cannabis retail business is a success!

How we can help you

Cannabis License Experts offers support from day one of starting your cannabis business, including strategic planning, floor plan preparation, site audits, SOPs, and more! Our team is equipped with professionals who have extensive experience in the Cannabis, Pharmaceutical, Natural Health Product, Food, and Medical Device industries.

We leverage years of cannabis quality assurance, operational and cultivation knowledge with real-life hands-on experience. Our team has the experience of submitting over 125 cannabis license applications under ACMPR and the Cannabis Act with no refusals to date! This speaks to our team’s dedication and due diligence to help our clients succeed. Through trust, transparency, and respect, our team will work with you to achieve your goals of getting your cannabis business licensed and legalized.


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