Congratulations to the 25 Ontario cannabis lottery winners

Published Feb 23, 2019 02:55 p.m. ET

Many weeks after the Ontario government spoke of not putting a cap on the number of licenses for retail recreational pot shops, the government decided to reverse what they said originally. The Ontario Government will only permit 25 licenses to private retailers. Reasons the government state for the need of a phased-in approach, is primarily due to the very severe shortage of cannabis, which has already severely impacted the OCS’ deliveries severely. The private retailers who are lucky enough to receive a license through the lottery process will have to have their retail pot shop up and running by the date that the AGCO has stipulated in the outline regarding licensing. This date is April 1, 2019

On January 23, 2018,the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced the 337 communities that are embracing the possibilities of running privately run pot shops. 77 communities opted out. January 22, 2018 was the deadline date for the communities to show their interest. If the AGCO were not informed one way or another by that date cannabis stores would automatically be permitted. The results show that about 23% are not going for it pot shops in their neighborhood.

Larger cities like Vaughan, Oakville, and Mississauga are some of the bigger cities that did opt out. Toronto, Barrie, and Hamilton are among other cities that are moving forward with their decision to opt in. They are welcoming the budding cannabis business to their cities.

One of the stipulations of the package for the licensing was that the cities that chose to opt out of the opportunity are free to reconsider sometime in the future. However, there is no option to rescind the decision for those that voted yes to the licensing opportunities.

The 25 licenses that were granted for the initial round of retail stores can only be awarded if the community has more than 50,000 people registered as living there. This will prevent many of the communities that did opt-in, not meeting the requirements that are necessary. These communities without a retail store and those who opted out will have to rely on the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation’s (OCS) delivery system if they wish to buy cannabis.

Five shops are scheduled to open in Toronto. Over 2.75 million people live in Toronto. Some peoples’ perspective on why the cities opted out are around the mindset of older conservative councils: who perhaps have a hard time letting go of the negative connotations that marijuana had and still has to some today. Some of the decisions for opting out were due to the lack of having control from the provinces as to the location of the stores. Toronto had conditions that were accepted on their opting in. Attached to Toronto’s decision to opt-in was a condition that Toronto is given greater control over where the cannabis shops operate.

So, you may ask, who is controlling these private retail cannabis shops? Along with announcing the 25 lottery winners for the licenses, the AGCO will be the regulator of the privately-run recreational pot shops, this was announced by the government of Ontario.

The appointment of the AGCO to regulate the recreational pot business was a wise choice according to the governments’ views. Stating that the AGCO had experience in regulating the provinces alcohol and gaming in Ontario. The focus for the AGCO in regard to the sale of recreational marijuana is to provide a legal, safe and responsible pot shops in Ontario.

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