Ontario accelerates cannabis store licensing to 120 per month

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The cannabis store regulator in Canada’s largest recreational marijuana market has once again increased the pace at which it issues store licenses, from 20 per week to 30 per week.

The change took effect Tuesday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said in a blog post.

The regulator said it has received more than 1,630 cannabis store applications to date and issued Retail Store Authorizations (RSAs) to 489 of those locations.

Ontario now has 430 licensed cannabis stores open for business, the AGCO said, and more than 940 applications still await processing.

Even at the new rate of 120 store authorizations each month, the current licensing backlog will take at least seven months to clear.

“The AGCO continues to receive dozens of new applications each week,” the regulator’s blog post noted.

As the regulator works through the application backlog, Ontario’s cannabis store count is finally approaching that of Alberta, which has 573 licensed cannabis stores.

Ontario surpassed 100 store licenses only last June.

Tuesday’s announcement marks the third time the AGCO has increased the pace of new cannabis store approvals since Sept. 1, when it sped up licensing to roughly 40 stores per month.

The process was accelerated again in December, when the AGCO committed to licensing 80 stores per month.

Ontarians purchased 82.9 million Canadian dollars ($65.3 million) worth of regulated recreational cannabis in November 2020, or nearly one-third of all legal recreational marijuana purchases in Canada that month.