The Ontario government has decided to slow down the process that would have allowed an unlimited number of brick and mortar pot shops to open across the province this coming Spring.
Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli announced on Thursday that the province will be taking steps to ensure that private cannabis retail stores open in phases, due to “severe supply shortages across the country in legal, licensed recreational cannabis stores.” The initial phase will allow up to 25 licenses to be issued to operators who will be able to open for business on April 1, 2019. The original plan would have allowed an open market system without a limit to the number of pot shops allowed across the province.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Mulroney and Fedeli blamed the federal government for the lack of sufficient cannabis supply to meet consumer demand.
“Alberta stopped issuing any new retail cannabis licences after only receiving 20 per cent of the stock it ordered from federally licensed producers, and in Quebec retail operating hours have been reduced to four days a week. In addition, the shortage of supply has restricted online sales in many jurisdictions,” the statement read. “This is a national issue that demands an immediate response from Justin Trudeau and the federal government. The government of Ontario has brought this to the federal government’s attention repeatedly.”
The province said the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will implement a lottery system to determine who will get one of the initial licences. A draw will be held on January 11, 2019, and interested parties have from January 7-9 to apply online to the AGCO.
Currently, legal recreational cannabis can only be purchased online from the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Ontario’s municipalities have until January 22 to decide if they want to opt out of allowing brick and mortar cannabis stores in their communities.