Ontario business group wants ‘clear timeline’ for cannabis store expansion

A group comprised of cannabis industry leaders and experts is calling on Ontario’s government to provide a more complete timetable for when retail stores will be permitted through an open allocation of licenses.

So far, the province has used a botched lottery system to award opportunities to open recreational marijuana stores.

The Ontario Cannabis Policy Council (OCPC) wants the province to adopt a merit-based, open allocation system of cannabis retail stores.

The group also released polling showing that a majority of Ontarians support industry involvement in the retail system.

More than 60% of Ontarians are “open or somewhat open” to private-sector involvement in the retail and distribution of adult-use cannabis, according to the survey, conducted by Nanos for OCPC.

“Ontarians want to see more private-sector involvement when it comes to how cannabis is bought, sold and distributed in the province,” Fire & Flower CEO Trevor Fencott said in a news release.

“The OCPC continues to call on the government to make the necessary changes to kick-start Ontario’s legal recreational cannabis market by making a commitment to a clear timeline to open more retail stores through an open allocation of licenses,” the group said in a statement.

The Nanos survey found that:

  • 61% are open or somewhat open to private companies being allowed to distribute cannabis between producers and retailers.
  • 58% are open or somewhat open to private companies being allowed to retail cannabis online.

Earlier this week, Ontario declined to release key details on when it will ramp up the number of adult-use cannabis stores beyond the small number that are already operational.

Instead, the province reiterated a previous commitment to “an open allocation of cannabis retail store licenses where the number of stores is limited only by market demand” in an undefined period of time.

The government also:

  • Unveiled plans to allow stores to sell cannabis products online for in-store pickup by consumers.
  • Reiterated a year-old pledge to eventually allowing “farm-gate” sales.

Craig Wiggins, managing director of market researcher TheCannalysts, estimates the slow rollout of stores in Ontario has already cost the fledgling industry 325 million Canadian dollars ($246 million) in foregone revenue.

Alberta has authorized 321 cannabis providers to open their doors, whereas Ontario has granted permission for 24 businesses to open so far.