Pace of new Ontario marijuana store openings slowing, OCS report says

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The pace of new marijuana store openings in Ontario trended downward at the end of 2021, according to a report released Thursday by the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) provincial wholesaler.

The declining momentum of new store openings could suggest that Ontario, the largest cannabis market in Canada, is approaching a suitable number of marijuana retailers to serve the province’s population after suffering from a slow start to store licensing that hampered early growth.

Ontario surpassed 1,000 cannabis retail outlets in September 2021 after the pace of licensing increased.

The new third-quarter review from OCS covers the three-month period ended December 31, 2021.

A total of 1,333 regulated cannabis stores were open in Canada’s most populous province by quarter’s end, an increase of 20% over the 1,115 locations open at the end of the OCS’ second quarter.

That store growth rate represents a slowdown from the 34% rate OCS reported between its first and second quarters.

“Stores opened their doors in previously underserved areas across the province, with the number of communities served rising to 217, up from 194 in the second quarter,” the OCS report noted.

Meanwhile, the average distance for shoppers to reach a cannabis store decreased by 0.4 kilometers (0.25 miles) on a quarterly basis to 4.2 kilometers.

OCS reported quarterly cannabis sales totaling 398.7 million Canadian dollars ($316.2 million), with 96% of those sales taking place in private-sector retail stores as opposed to the OCS’ online retail platform.

Brick-and-mortar cannabis retailers in Ontario sold an average of CA$328,000 worth of cannabis during the quarter.

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The government-owned wholesaler estimated that legal cannabis took a 58.8% share of Ontario’s total marijuana market in the quarter, increasing from 54.2% in the previous quarter.

Ontarians purchased CA$137 million worth of legal cannabis in January, or nearly 40% of Canada’s total legal cannabis sales that month, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.

Solomon Israel can be reached at