Ontario says portal for cannabis store applications operating ‘as planned’

The portal to submit applications for Retail Store Authorizations (RSAs) opened at the designated time Monday morning and “all is proceeding as planned,” according to a spokesperson for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

That’s an improvement over last year, when a rush of applicants for the store lottery system overwhelmed the regulator’s website.

The portal for prospective store operators to file RSA applications opened March 2 at 12:01 a.m. ET. Candidates who received or applied for a Retail Operator License (ROL) are now allowed to submit up to 10 RSA applications.

Ontario could see a windfall of recreational marijuana store openings this year as the province looks to make up ground with the rest of the country.

Just under 800 Retail Operator License submissions had been filed for adult-use stores in Ontario as of last week since the AGCO started accepting open market applications on Jan. 6.

Experts say the main constraint facing the rate of openings in Canada’s largest market will likely be the pace at which the agency issues RSAs.

Ontario’s few dozen approved stores stand in contrast to the 623 adult-use stores already issued licenses in Alberta and British Columbia.

Ontario expects to issue around 20 RSAs per month starting in April.

“The time required for the AGCO to conduct its eligibility assessment and issue a license to eligible applicants is dependent on a number of factors, including the completeness of the application submitted and an applicant’s timely response for outstanding information/clarifications,” the AGCO spokesperson said.

“The AGCO is committed to moving complete applications through as quickly as possible and will only license applicants who meet all legal and regulatory requirements.”

Edmonton-based Fire & Flower is one of the retailers planning to expand its footprint in Ontario.

Fire & Flower said its Ontario expansion plans include the completed acquisitions of one store each in Ottawa and Kingston.

The Edmonton company received its ROL from the AGCO and has submitted applications for eight additional locations.

Licensed operators are limited to 10 stores until September, rising to 30 through September 2021 and up to 75 thereafter.

Applications must be submitted through the iAGCO online portal.

Regulatory amendments are available here.

Shares of Fire & Flower Holdings are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as FAF.

Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com.