Cannabis With Your Coffee? Ontario Could Have Thousands of Cannabis Retailers

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Cannabis with your coffee? Ontario could have thousands of pot retailers September 17, 2018 5.30pm EDT The Second Cup Ltd. says it is actively reviewing locations in Ontario for potential conversion to cannabis stores in light of a decision by the new provincial government to allow private retailers to sell the drug. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Chris Young Stores in Ontario currently selling cannabis illegally will need to shut down before Oct. 17 and they apply for a legal retail licence. In this photo from March 2017, store manager Mark Harrison speaks to media outside a Cannabis Culture store following a police raid in Toronto on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Legalized cannabis is just a month away, but Ontario won’t have any cannabis stores until April. That’s due to the province’s recent decision to have cannabis outlets run by businesses rather than a government agency, although the agency will still open a retail web site Oct. 17.

In the meantime, the provincial government has many regulatory decisions to make about cannabis retailers. Those retailers could easily number in the hundreds or even thousands as many businesses enter the newly legal industry.

For starters, some cannabis growers naturally want to expand vertically into retailing. Aurora Cannabis is eyeing 100 potential stores. Canopy Growth wants as many Ontario licenses as possible, and already has some in Newfoundland, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, established retailers are expanding horizontally into cannabis. Second Cup may convert some of its 130 Ontario coffee outlets to cannabis. It’s already readying shops in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Grocer Loblaw is similarly preparing for sales in Newfoundland and Alberta, so Ontario could follow.

Illegal shops may want to be legit

Many existing illegal pot shops will want into the legal market, but they’ll find it difficult. Ontario’s insisting they shut down by Oct. 17 if they wish to — maybe — sell legally in April.

New cannabis vendors will also appear. Those could include retail chains, like Fire & Flower’s 37 Alberta stores, as well as independent mom-and-pop stores.

Given the wide interest, Ontario can expect far more than the 40 shopsits previous Liberal government had planned. This leads to the first regulatory question: should the province cap the store count? Other provinces provide hints of what’s possible.

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