Canada’s biggest cannabis market, Ontario, reaches 1,000 legal stores

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(This story has been corrected to note that 6 of Spade opened its doors Aug. 20.)

The Canadian province of Ontario, the country’s biggest market with a population of nearly 14.8 million people, now has at least 1,000 licensed cannabis stores.

The government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the monopoly wholesaler to those stores, said in a recent blog post that the 1,000th cannabis retailer was 6 of Spade, a Black-owned business that opened Aug. 20 in Toronto.

The 1,000-store milestone marks a period of rapid market growth in the Ontario market, which initially suffered from a slow cannabis retail rollout that led to an early deficiency in legal retail outlets and correspondingly low sales.

Ontario’s store count finally surpassed the smaller province of Alberta this past April.

In May, OCS and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the retail cannabis regulator and licensing body, said they expected more than 1,000 store authorizations by the beginning of September.

At the time, AGCO listed more than 760 store authorizations.

Rapid growth in Ontario’s retail cannabis sector has led to heavy competition in certain areas and complaints of retail oversaturation.

For example, the city of Guelph, which had a 2016 census population of roughly 132,000, could soon have as many as 25 cannabis retailers, according to a local media report.

Certain areas of the provincial capital Toronto have also drawn community complaints over high concentrations of marijuana retailers.

Legal cannabis retailers in Ontario sold 120.1 million Canadian dollars ($94.6 million) worth of marijuana in June, growing 8% over May on an unadjusted basis, according to data from Statistics Canada.

Ontario’s June cannabis retail sales comprised 37.7% of all Canadian regulated marijuana sales that month.