Article by Jenna Moon, Toronto Star
Since January, Vivianne Wilson has been waiting for confirmation that her cannabis store can open its doors.
Wilson, founder of GreenPort Cannnabis in Toronto, is the first Black woman who is an independent owner and operator of a licensed Canadian cannabis retail business. She said her company aims to bring diversity to Canada’s cannabis industry.
“We’re celebrating the history of the plant,” she said. “We’re recognizing and celebrating the people who introduced this plant to the world. At GreenPort, we’re giving a voice to the voiceless by bringing much needed representation into the Canadian cannabis market because currently it does not exist.”
Now she fears that she’ll have to shutter her store before she can officially open.
After receiving a retail operator licence, Wilson had to apply for a retail store authorization. It meant that even though she had entered into a lease agreement and completed the necessary renovations to implement the required security features she still couldn’t open.
“Throughout this entire process, I was not given a single timeline from the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission),” Wilson said. “There was absolutely nothing provided until my pre-inspection when I was told I had another 90 days to wait before I could open the store.”
The AGCO, which handles cannabis licensing in Ontario, has said that licences are provided on a first-come first-served basis. A spokesperson for the commission confirmed that Wilson has been placed in a queue for approval and tentatively scheduled for late September. The AGCO issues approximately 20 store authorizations a month, the spokesperson said.
“The AGCO has a team of compliance and licensing officials working on multiple files. All applications are processed efficiently and equitably,” the AGCO said in a statement. “Generally speaking, delays may occur based on the complexity of the file and if the AGCO requests additional disclosure information and must wait for a response.”
For Wilson, the wait has meant that she paid for renovations and a lease, but cannot open her store and generate revenue.
The delay speaks to a larger issue, Wilson said, where Ontario’s cannabis market runs the risk of being dominated by a few major players, while she is having difficulty setting up even one cannabis store.
“We’re not just opening another store,” Wilson said. “We’re creating a community where everyone can feel welcome” and represented — especially given the history of cannabis and the criminalization of those in racialized communities.