Article by James Jackson, Waterloo Region Record
Three proposed cannabis retail stores in Waterloo Region continue to inch their way to opening day, but the exact dates are still up in the air.
Two of the locations — 75 Pinebush Rd. in Cambridge and 589 Fairway Rd. in Kitchener — have received a retail operator licence, and the licence is pending for a third location at 32 King St. S. in Waterloo, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has confirmed with The Record.
None of the locations has received a retail store authorization, however, which is required before the stores can open and sell recreational cannabis to the public. The authorization confirms the store meets the location, layout and security requirements set out by the AGCO.
Melissa Gallagher, director of franchising for Tokyo Smoke, which operates 20 stores in Canada, said in an email the company is “currently finishing the build-out of the store” in Cambridge, but she did not provide an expected opening date.
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Meta Cannabis — which has 10 stores in Canada — told The Record there is still no opening date set for the Kitchener location.
Local cannabis advocate Peter Thurley said a lack of legal options in this region is impacting the community. The stores were expected to open about three months ago.
“The black market is thriving in Waterloo Region; you can pick up your phone and have an ounce of cannabis at your door within an hour,” said Thurley.
Anyone wanting to buy recreational cannabis at a legal retail store must travel to Hamilton, where there are two stores, London, which has three, or Burlington, with two stores. Recreational cannabis is also available for purchase online at the government-operated Ontario Cannabis Store.
There are currently 41 proposed retail locations across Ontario going through the process of opening, according to the AGCO website. Only 28 have been authorized to open under the provincial lottery system since it launched last year.
Thurley says it’s unacceptable that Waterloo Region — not to mention the rest of the province — is underserved.
“The 10th-largest metropolitan area in the country doesn’t have a cannabis store. That’s insane to me,” he said.