There are 11 pot shops around Kensington Market. Another 13 pot shops line Yonge St., between Bloor and Adelaide Sts. On Queen St. E., between Broadview and Logan Aves. — one major city block — there are eight pot shops.
And Queen St. W., with 21 pot shops between Niagara St. and University Ave., may be the winner.
Not all of these stores are open yet, but they are all in the pipeline and will become a reality.
So how many is too many?
And is this overkill, or can the cannabis market support them all?
According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) website, the goal is to have 1,000 stores approved in Ontario by the fall.
Statistics Canada says Canada’s cannabis sales increased by nearly 30% between May and last September; by the end of 2020, legal sales finally caught up with black market transactions.
And shops keep opening. Residents of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood were aghast to see a Starbucks location being replaced by a pot shop last month — and it won’t be the last such swap.
There are plenty of reasons to either cheer or protest the way pot shops are springing up like mushrooms in our fair city, but does it even make business sense?
“I think some people will be surprised to hear that in mature cannabis markets like Denver and Portland, cannabis retailers have outnumbered Starbucks by close to 2-1 for years,” says Matt Lamers, international editor at Marijuana Business Daily, the leading business publication for the cannabis industry.
“There are way more cannabis stores in those cities than there are McDonald’s restaurants. Legal cannabis is big business, and most markets can expect a population-to-store ratio of around 10,000 to one.
“The major caveat here is that the stricter the regulations, the fewer transactions will be steered to the legal market.”
Lamers knows there are some people questioning the number of pot shops in Toronto, but he says it’s all part and parcel of industry growing pains.
Some resistance likely comes from people who didn’t want to see cannabis legalized in the first place.
But, says Lamers, these transactions have always taken place, “and it’s safer to monitor the sale of this drug under the watchful eye of regulators than it would be to force all transactions to happen in the illicit market, like they had been for decades.”
If pot shops had opened according to the former Liberal government’s proposal, they’d be carefully spaced out the way LCBO stores are, Lamers said. There would be nobody complaining about pot shop clustering in certain neighbourhoods.
But there might a lot of complaints about supply and demand.
“The previous provincial government promised Ontario would have around 150 government-run stores by the end of 2020, which wasn’t even close to enough to meet the goal of steering cannabis transactions from the underground to the regulated market.”
Instead, under the private model, we got 300 stores in the private sector in 2020 and about 800 now authorized to open.
“Ontario needs well over 1,000 stores to challenge the illicit market,” insists Lamers.