Article by CBC News
Ottawa could see a four-fold increase in cannabis retailers in the new year, according to a review of information on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) website.
There are currently about a dozen retailers that have been “authorized to open,” with just under 30 applications in progress with AGCO. The commission said it could not comment on the outcome or timelines of those licence approvals.
Eric Lewinson, the owner of Canna North, is one of the new entrants in Ottawa’s pot market. He said focusing on a “no frills” approach in contrast to the slick feel of many current operators will keep him competitive.
“If I’m going into a location or a market where there’s already six stores, I’m going there because there’s no store like mine,” he said.
Most of the locations he’s applied to open in don’t have a high concentration of pot retail. He opened his first store on Preston Street mid-December, got the green light for another on Hunt Club Road shortly after and is waiting on a third on Baseline Road.
Lewinson said he chose his Preston location, the site of a previous illegal dispensary, because it showed the market for his product. His planned Baseline location also had a pot shop prior to legalization.
“None of the large brands are interested in taking the head-first approach in strictly targeting legacy customers,” he said. “I’m just trying to cater to the little guy.”
The 26-year-old said that he felt there was extra scrutiny during his four background checks with Ontario Provincial Police before his licence went ahead, but he was not involved with the previous operations at those sites.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said he would like to see landlords who profited from high commercial rents on those dispensaries face similar scrutiny from the AGCO.
“I see the landlord as being complicit,” he said.
The AGCO said people involved in operating illegal dispensaries after the province started its zero-tolerance policy in October 2018 cannot obtain a retail operator licence, retail store authorization or retail manager licence.
The AGCO said whether a landlord knowingly allowed an illegal dispensary to operate is part of evaluating the eligibility of an application.