Article by David George-Cosh, BNN Bloomberg
After spending nearly $400,000 to build and prepare a new cannabis store in Brampton, Ont., Mirna Diab doesn’t know if she and her family can wait until next August to get the paperwork needed to open its doors.
“Put yourself in our situation,” Diab, who led all construction and development of their HiBuzz cannabis store while her husband Charbel handles administrative duties, told BNN Bloomberg in a phone interview. “My husband can’t sleep at night and we’ve spent our life’s savings. Now that we’ve spent everything we have, [the provincial regulator] told us we need to be on the waiting list for almost a year. It’s very frustrating.”
The Diabs’ tale mirrors the experiences of some other cannabis store applicants, waiting for months for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the province’s retail regulator, to authorize their pot store licences. Applicants are paying thousands of dollars in rent for unopened stores while some complain that a lack of communication and transparency from the AGCO has hampered their efforts to take part in the lucrative industry.
Diab said that after submitting an application for a store licence shortly after midnight on March 2, the first day anyone in the province could apply, she and her husband have spent $300,000 on construction, paid the store’s lease for the next year in advance, and have placed another $65,000 deposit on a potential second store’s lease. In addition to mortgaging their home, they’ve also taken loans from family to help complete the store’s buildout, she said.
“I’m shocked at what the government has been doing,” Diab said. “You’d think the government would want to help their people but I don’t see that. They should put themselves in our shoes because it only looks like rich people can be part of this industry.”
With over 900 pot store applications waiting to be processed by the AGCO, only five licences are being issued each week, a pace that would take nearly two years to open a cannabis store if an application was submitted today.