Article by Vanmala Subramaniam, Financial Post
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) says its “too early to say” how many of the 25 designated brick-and-mortar cannabis retail stores will be in operation by the provincially mandated deadline of April 1.
But at least one winner of the province’s cannabis retail lottery says that his downtown Toronto shop will be open for business on schedule.
“We are hitting the deadlines that are supposed to be met, and everything will be installed and ready by April 1,” said Hunny Gawri, a former Mississauga real estate agent who will be opening The Hunny Pot Cannabis Co. in downtown Toronto.
Gawri has never owned, operated or worked in the retail space, but says that his previous experience as a realtor helped him prepare for how “rushed” the process was. “From the day I found out I won, I knew there was a big challenge ahead of me, but I’ve always been up for challenges in the business environment.”
Ontario first announced the winners of the cannabis retail lottery on Jan. 11, which meant that those chosen had under three months to do everything from finding an actual store, to complying with the various ownership rules in order to obtain a Retail Store Authorization, to working with the Ontario Cannabis Store to obtain supply.
In an email to the Financial Post, the AGCO said that although they have dedicated teams working closely with each applicant, it is “certainly clear there will not be 25 stores open in Ontario right on April 1.”
Gawri is one of many sole proprietors, without prior experience in either the retail space or the cannabis space that won the cannabis lottery in January. The system of opening up legal cannabis retail to anyone has been heavily criticized by those already involved in some capacity in the cannabis industry, who argue that winners lacking the right experience will simply delay the process of getting legal stores up and running.