The process to open privately operated cannabis retail stores in Greater Sudbury continued to move forward this week, with one of the applicants, Saturninus Partners, moving into the eligibility phase of Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario review process, and another, Anton Lucic, nearing the end of a public notice period.
Saturninus and Lucic were recently named as winners for the North Region in the AGCO’s Expression of Interest Application Lottery. The commission has targeted April 1 of this year as an opening date.
High Tide Inc., an Alberta-based cannabis corporation working with two Ontario stores – one in the North Region, located in Sudbury, and another in the West Region, specifically Hamilton, announced on Tuesday that both applicants were proceeding to the eligibility phase.
The Sudbury store, confirmed by High Tide chief strategy officer and senior vice-president of capital markets Nick Kuzyk to be Saturninus, will be assessed for current and ongoing compliance with the Cannabis License Act, 2018 and its regulation, with subsequent stages involving operator licensing and store authorization.
Kuzyk said a location for the store has been leased, but will not be shared until posted online by AGCO, “out of respect for their process.”
“With High Tide’s assistance, this great news enables the winners to continue working toward opening their stores in view of the AGCO’s target date of April 1, 2019,” added Raj Grover, president and CEO of High Tide, in a press release. “The Hamilton Store is expected to serve a large population surrounding the west end of Lake Ontario, while the Sudbury Store is also expected to serve an expanded geographic area based on its strategic location. We are very excited to help the winners offer customers an approachable yet responsible retail experience.”
A proposed location has been revealed for the other North Region store, also in Sudbury. Highlife, to be operated by Lucic, is located at 1299 Marcus Dr., in a strip mall space formerly occupied by a Town Shoes clearance outlet.
Lucic’s application is nearing the end of the public input phase. Residents of Greater Sudbury have until midnight March 6 to submit a comment at www.agco.ca concerning the proposed store location.
The registrar at the AGCO will consider written submissions as to why the proposed store is not in the public interest, as set out in the regulation made under the Cannabis Licence Act, explained Raymond Kahnert, AGCO senior communications advisor. Matters of public interest that can be considered by the registrar include protecting public health and safety, protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis, and preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.
The applicant then has five days to respond to registrar, who will then issue a decision on that location. Once the public notice period ends, the names of applicants will drop off the online list. The commission has created a new status page, www.agco.ca/status-current-cannabis-retail-store-applications, where information is to be updated regularly.
There are other steps before doors open, Kahnert said.
Ontario is the second-last province or territory to welcome bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores. Nunavut doesn’t have stores yet, either.
Marijuana is currently sold online at the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store, but policy changes by the Conservative government delayed the actual storefronts. Just 25 licences are being granted in the province initially, distributed among five regions: Toronto, Greater Toronto, Western Ontario, Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario. The number is being temporarily restricted because of a shortage of marijuana for the recreational market.
Shopping at a cannabis store will not be like strolling into either a clothing boutique or the LCBO, as what cannabis stores can sell and how they can sell it are heavily regulated.
There’s no browsing among aisles of merchandise, for instance, and products must be kept out of the reach of customers until they are purchased.
Stores can sell fresh or dried flower, pre-rolled joints, cannabis oil, capsules filled with oil, seeds and plants. The only other things allowed for sale are the accessories used to grind, roll, smoke or store weed.
Edible cannabis products such as baked goods and drinks, concentrates such as the substance used in vape pens, and topical products such as creams will be available later. The federal government must finalize regulations for those products by October 2019, but there may be a lag before they land on store shelves.
Advertising that promotes pot is not allowed. Shoppers will be captured on high-definition video, for security purposes.
Owners will have to design stores and build brands within those constraints.
For more information, visit www.agco.ca.