It’s the first day cannabis retailers can throw their names in a lottery for one of 25 licences to open a pot shop in the province, but the pull-from-the-hat approach could leave Ottawa without a single storefront.
Cannabis has been legal since Oct. 17, but so far, Ontario consumers have only been able to buy the product online.
Only 25 licences will be issued by Apr. 1 to the first wave of private retailers, with a lottery system determining the winners.
According to a local public affairs consultant, that’s not the best way to combat black market cannabis sales — especially if Ottawa ends up without any legal outlets.
“A lottery system means there are winners and losers based on an arbitrary draw,” said Ivan Ross Vrána of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, who works with several cannabis companies.
Applications should instead be evaluated based on their merit, Vrána said, and where demand is highest.
Only 5 shops in all of Eastern Ontario
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will hold the lottery Jan. 11 and publish the results within 24 hours.