Customers lined up at Ontario’s first brick-and-mortar cannabis stores on Monday, but fewer than half of the province’s government-licensed outlets were ready to open.
The Progressive Conservative government had planned to have 25 private stores launch on April 1, but some were still working through a lengthy approval process.
Premier Doug Ford defended his government’s decision to hold a lottery to determine who could apply for store licences, saying more shops would be opening soon.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll get it done,” he said. “If it means another week or two to get it right, let’s do it.”
Recreational cannabis has so far only been available for purchase legally in Ontario through a government-run website. Other provinces have long had the option to buy legal pot in stores since legalization in October.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission, which is overseeing Ontario’s vetting process, said 10 stores were given the green light to open Monday – three in Ottawa, two in Kingston and one each in Toronto, Brampton, Burlington, London, and St. Catharines.
In Toronto, Stephanie Shamoon was the second person in line outside the Hunny Pot Cannabis Co. She said she braved the unseasonal cold from 10 p.m. Sunday to be part of a significant moment.
“It’s kind of a history-in-the making kind of thing,” said the 20-year-old, noting that shopping in a physical store was much easier than buying pot online. “You can come in right away, pick up what you want… you can smell it.”