Ontario is unlikely to meet its target of having 25 privately owned cannabis shops open by April 1, an analysis of licence applications shows.
Four of the lottery winners who won the right to apply for the coveted first wave of licences haven’t even announced their locations yet.
For those four, from Toronto and the GTA, the deadline looks impossible. The public is allowed 15 days to comment after locations are posted. Lottery winners have five days to reply to those comments. That’s a total of 20 days, and as of Thursday there were only 17 days remaining until April 1.
For another five stores, the public comment period ends between March 19 and March 27, which is tight timing.
It’s difficult to predict how many of the 25 stores will open on time. Construction, public comments and scrutiny of applicants by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario are all happening at the same time in a mad dash to open the shops.
Ontario is the only province or territory except Nunavut that doesn’t yet have bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores. Residents can buy online at the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Stores were delayed after the province ditched plans by the previous Liberal regime for government-run outlets in favour of privately owned stores.
The province had planned to issue an unlimited number of licences but changed course because of a shortage of pot.
The number of licences was temporarily limited to 25, and a lottery was held in January to determine who could apply for them.
It cost $75 to enter the lottery. The AGCO said winners should be prepared to open a store by April 1.
There were nearly 17,000 lottery entrants. Most of the winners were individuals, many with no experience in the cannabis industry or running a store.
A flurry of deal-making ensued as lottery winners reached agreements with companies eager to gain a foothold in the potentially lucrative cannabis retail trade. That also created delays as the AGCO scrutinized deals to make sure lottery winners maintained control and ownership. One winner was disqualified for breaking those rules.
As it stands now, nine of the 21 lottery winners that have announced their locations are affiliated with pot-shop chains under these brand names: Spiritleaf, Canna Cabana, Choom Cannabis, Nova Cannabis, Fire & Flower, Tweed and Hobo.
Operators of the three stores proposed for Ottawa all say they aim to be open April 1, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Lottery winners need two licences. As of Thursday night, only four winners – in Brampton, Toronto, St. Catharines and London- had been awarded both.
Here’s a rundown of shops by region:
Eastern Ontario: 5 shops
All five stores have completed the public comment period and are awaiting licences. In Ottawa: Superette on Wellington Street West, Fire & Flower York Street Cannabis in the ByWard Market and Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store on Bank Street. In Kingston: Brock Street Cannabis (affiliated with Fire & Flower) and Spiritleaf.
Western Ontario: 7 shops
Two stores have both licences: The Niagara Herbalist in St. Catharines and Central Cannabis in London
One store has completed the public comment stage and is awaiting a licence: Tweed in London
Four stores are in the public comment stage: Canna Cabana Hamilton (comments end March 23); Choom Cannabis in Niagara Falls (March 19); J. London in London (March 19); and Hello Cannabis Store in Hamilton (March 27)
Greater Toronto: 6 stores
One store has both licences: Ganjika House in Brampton
One store has one of two licences: RELM Cannabis Co. in Burlington
Two stores have completed public comments and are awaiting licences: Fabulous Leaf in Oshawa and Smok in Ajax
Two lottery winners have not announced a location: Guruveer Singh Sangha and Kyle Hildebrand
Toronto: 5 stores
One store has both licences: The Hunny Pot Cannabis Company
Two stores have completed public comment and are awaiting licences: Ameri, Nova Cannabis
Two lottery winners have not announced locations: Colin Campbell and Dana Michele Kendal
Northern Ontario: 2 stores
One store has completed public comment and is awaiting a licence: Highlife in Sudbury
One store is in the public comment stage until March 22: Canna Cabana Sudbury