When London’s fourth cannabis retail store opens Tuesday, the city will boast the third-most pot shops in Ontario.
The opening of the Friendly Stranger at 1135 Richmond St. leaves only Toronto, with eight outlets, and Ottawa, with five, with more of the stores.
Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton have just one and two stores, respectively, with others awaiting final approval.
London’s three existing marijuana retailers were approved to open through the now-nixed Ontario pot lottery system that doled out just 75 licences across the province after April 1, 2019.
Operators of the businesses say they chose London for its proximity to Highway 401, abundance of post-secondary students, available commercial space and warm embrace of cannabis.
“London’s a great market,” said Friendly Stranger president James Jesty, whose company struck a partnership deal with a lottery winner to open the store near Western University’s gates.
Now, with the lottery system gone after the Progressive Conservatives decided to award an unlimited number of store licences, a wave of pot shops is expected to begin opening across Ontario this spring.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the province’s pot regulator, said it has received more than 700 applications for retail operator licences from individuals and companies since Jan. 6.
Mihi Cannabis says it plans to open four of its allotted 10 stores — the maximum allowed this year — in London as part of its plan to populate cites along the 401 with pot shops.