Ontario, Canada is removing the cap on the province’s number of private retail cannabis stores in January, abandoning the current lottery system, the Financial Post reports. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is expected to begin accepting applications for private cannabis retailers on January 6 and to approve applications beginning March 20. Regulators expect authorizations at a rate of about 20 per month.
Under the plan, the pre-qualification requirements will be scrapped – those rules required applicants to have a loan of $250,000 along with a letter of credit from a financial institution. Licensed producers will also be permitted to open a single shop at one of their facilities.
Provincial Attorney General Doug Downey said the changes are aimed at combating illegal products, protecting children, and keeping communities safe. Currently, Ontario has just 24 cannabis retailers throughout the province, using a lottery system to award 67 licenses total, with eight allocated to First Nations groups.
“In response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis, our government is determined to open the cannabis market as responsibly as possible.” – Downey, to the Post
In September, the province held its second lottery round for legal cannabis licenses and 18 of 42 of those applicants were quickly disqualified for breaking rules or failing to submit all required documents. One winning firm actually withdrew its application due to the process. The Financial Post first reported the plans to open the industry to private companies last month, but at the time it appeared they would only allow private firms to store and distribute cannabis rather than sell it to consumers.
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