Ontario to license cannabis stores faster as authorizations surpass 300

Ontario’s cannabis store regulator is again doubling the number of Retail Store Authorizations (RSA) it is issuing per month.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said it is picking up its pace with the goal of issuing 20 RSAs per week, the agency announced Tuesday.

That is up from 10 per week before the announcement. The AGCO had doubled its pace to 10 in September.

The move comes one day after Ontario’s auditor general rapped the AGCO for not adequately monitoring the movement of marijuana products in the province’s growing number of retail stores.

The AGCO said more than 1,100 RSA applications have not been processed.

Roughly 305 RSAs have been issued, and 269 authorized cannabis stores are open, according to the AGCO.

“The government has provided further direction to double the pace of store authorizations once again, from 40 to 80 per month,” the AGCO noted in its announcement.

“Over the next two weeks, AGCO Eligibility Officers will be contacting all affected retail store applicants directly – starting with the ones that have the most imminent RSA issuance dates – to advise them of the new anticipated issuance date of their store authorizations.”

Ontario has a ways to go before it catches up with Alberta, which has the largest store footprint in Canada.

Alberta has 543 cannabis providers.

British Columbia’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has issued 299 store licenses.

George Smitherman, CEO of industry group Cannabis Council of Canada, said more stores will provide added convenience for consumers, which is crucial in achieving the public policy objective of cutting into the illicit market.

“As somebody living in a place called Tiny in Simcoe County, my nearest cannabis options consist of a 30-minute drive in one of two directions. Maybe greater convenience is around the corner, so to speak.”