Article by James Jackson, Waterloo Region Record
There are still hours to go before the province holds a second lottery to allocate dozens of new retail cannabis stores across Ontario.
And retail cannabis experts are already lining up and eager to help anyone who might win the right to set up shop in Waterloo Region, which was shut out during the first lottery earlier this year.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will hold the lottery Tuesday to allocate 42 of 50 retail stores across Ontario, and results will be posted online within 24 hours.
Up to 11 locations are reserved for the west region of Ontario (including Waterloo Region), and stores must be ready to open by early October.
“There is a bit of a rush to get a store open,” said Dave Schenk, regional operations manager for Choom, which is working to establish licensed retail chains across Canada and the United States.
Schenk, a Wilfrid Laurier graduate and manager of Waterloo Medical Cannabis Clinic, said his experience will help get a local shop up and running on time.
And he’s not alone in eyeing possible partnerships in this region.
“(Waterloo Region) has all the hallmarks that you’d want for a good location to put in a store,” said Jon Conquergood, chief executive of Ontario Cannabis Holdings. It’s a dense population and an underserved market.
This region was unsuccessful in the first retail lottery that named the initial 25 brick-and-mortar retail locations in Ontario earlier this year.
The AGCO says it’s up to the applicant — not the commission — to choose their location, and winners must have their doors open on time or they face stiff financial penalties.
It’s unclear if anyone even submitted an application to open a retail store in Waterloo Region this time around, but every local municipality voted to permit cannabis retail stores earlier this year.
Choom opened a Niagara Falls retail shop in mid-June, and they’ll work with lottery winners to navigate municipal red tape, establish a storefront, and hire retail staff. The store will then operate under a Choom licensing agreement.
Ontario Cannabis Holdings offers many of the same services as Choom, but the store is not subject to a licensing agreement, Conquergood said. They partnered with Central Cannabis in London, which was one of just 10 stores to open by the April 1 deadline set out in the first lottery.