What’s at Stake in Ontario’s Cannabis Store Rollout

Article by Leaf News

What's at stake in Ontario's cannabis store rollout A former employee of of an illegal cannabis dispensary in Toronto stands outside the now-shuttered store. Nearly half a year after legalization, Ontario still doesn't have any legal cannabis stores. (Chris Young)

Last December, Ontario’s government threw a wrench into the plans of Canada’s cannabis retailers when it announced there would be just 25 cannabis store licences across the entire province by April 1.

That’s just two weeks from now, and as a smart new analysis by the Ottawa Citizen’s Jacquie Miller concludes, it’s highly unlikely that 25 cannabis stores will actually be open on Ontario on April Fools’ Day. (That might be related to the fact that most of the licence winners were individuals with no previous experience in the cannabis retail space, and have spent the past months scrambling to partner up with bigger players.)

Ontario’s decisions to limit its first store licences and dole them out by lottery didn’t get a great reception from the cannabis industry. But cannabis consultant Omar Khan thinks the province got it right on both counts, given supply problems in the cannabis industry.

“I think the lottery system was something that they really didn’t have a choice on, given that the initial tranche of licences was so low,” says Khan, vice president at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

“You would want to avoid any perception of favouritism, whether it’s true or not, especially when there’s such a small number of licences, and they’re so highly sought-after.”

(It’s worth noting that Khan is a vice-president of the Ontario Liberal Party and a former chief of staff for former ministers under Ontario’s previous Liberal government.)

Right now, the lack of licensed cannabis stores appears to have hamstrung sales of legal cannabis in Ontario, compared to other provinces with better retail access. Khan expects Canada’s cannabis supply issues should start clearing up towards the end of this year — and if the Ontario government doesn’t start improving access to legal cannabis by licensing many more weed stores by then, he thinks Doug Ford’s PCs could face “definite political risk.”

Read the full article here.

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