Article by Bill Jackson, KitchnerPost
One applicant selected in a provincial lottery held Tuesday is eligible to open a pot shop in Kitchener, listed at 589 Fairway Rd S, meaning that residents of Waterloo region should soon have a local bricks-and-mortar option to purchase their weed from legally.
The Kitchener applicant has been identified by the AGCO as Patricia, Gertrude, Donnelly, and 589 Fairway Rd. S is a strip plaza, located close to public transit.
Results of Ontario’s second official pot shop lottery released Wednesday morning by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario also lists selected applicants in Guelph, at 120 Wyndham St. N, and Ancaster, at 1142 Wilson St. W.
The news is “heaven” to some.
Kitchener resident Peter Thurley, who sits on the board of directors with Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, said a store in Waterloo region or within a reasonable distance is desperately needed.
“The fact that people here have to order online or drive to London and Hamilton is insane, and it ultimately means that people in this community remain reliant on the black market,” Thurley said.
Prior to Tuesday’s lottery, Thurley said he’d be shocked if Waterloo region didn’t end up with at least one successful applicant.
More than 17,000 applicants tried to get one of 25 cannabis store licences that were doled out by the AGCO in the first lottery back in January, just three months following marijuana legalization last October.
According to the AGCO’s website, there are currently 24 licensed cannabis retailers operating in Ontario in Ajax, Brampton, Burlington (2), Hamilton (2), Kingston (2), London (3), Niagara Falls, Ottawa (3), Oshawa, St. Catharines, Sudbury (2) and Toronto (5), with a second application now in the works for Brampton.
Some criticized the initial process for its uneven distribution of retail licences, however Ontario regulation under the Cannabis Licence Act establishes the AGCO must use a method for selecting applicants that doesn’t rely on the discretion of the registrar or any other person.
Tuesday’s lottery was overseen by third-party fairness monitor KPMG, according to Raymond Kahnert, senior advisor with the AGCO’s communications and corporate affairs division.
Ontario began selling cannabis online after Canada legalized it in October and began approving private storefronts last January, after retailers elsewhere closed due to a shortage of legal cannabis.
On July 3, the Ontario government announced a second lottery allocation for 50 retail stores, including eight on First Nations reserves.
The draw Tuesday selected the 42 Ontario applicants who can now apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence (ROL) and Retail Store Authorization (RSA). Of those, 19 stores were reserved for Toronto and the GTA region, with another 18 spread out in the east and west regions, with one store in each of Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins.
The expression-of-interest application was available from Aug. 7 to 9, via the iAGCO online service portal. More than 5,000 were received — about 200 from the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge combined.
Participants were required to meet the pre-qualification requirements established by the province, demonstrating they have the financial capacity to open a retail store with a letter of confirmation for $250,000 and a $50,000 letter of credit. They were also required to secure suitable retail space.
The requirements were stricter than the last time, with the AGCO trying to “weed out” unprepared applicants prior to rollout, Thurley explained. But there’s nothing stopping applicants from flipping their selection like last time, he said.
“A lot of the bigger brands are focused on working with lottery winners and paying top dollar for a good location.”
David Schenk, a Waterloo resident and regional operations manager for Choom Cannabis Co., which operates a store in Niagara region and currently has 43 retail opportunities secured across Canada, said he’s looking to partner with any winner who requires financial support, development and operational experience.
Choom was unsuccessful in its attempt to attain storefronts in various parts of the region’s “sensitive” areas where Schenk claims pot stores are not allowed due to unique “front-window requirements” that must be met.
Schenk said Choom’s Niagara location has already reached the $1 million mark in revenue after six weeks of operations and strives to present itself as an upscale purveyor of pot.