Ontario Removes Cap On Number Marijuana Retailers

The Government of Ontario is removing its cap on the number of private stores that can sell marijuana in Canada’s most populous province.

The decision to remove the cap on the number of retail stores that can sell marijuana and do away with a controversial lottery system that determined which stores got licenses to sell the recreational drug will dramatically widen the marijuana retail footprint in the province of 14.5 million people.

In a news release, the provincial government said that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will begin accepting retail licence applications on January 6, 2020, with store authorization applications to follow on March 2 of next year. Store authorizations are expected to follow at a 20-per-month clip beginning in April.

Going forward, marijuana retailers will be able to own a maximum of 10 stores, increasing to 30 and eventually 75 by September 2021. Meanwhile, 42 proposed new stores that were selected through a provincial lottery this past August are authorized to open their doors immediately, the government said. And, retailers will be allowed to sell additional cannabis-related items such as magazines and cookbooks.

The previous lottery system had been panned by industry participants, with only 24 marijuana stores currently operating in the province as well as the government-run online store, compared to Alberta where more than 300 pot shops have opened their doors in the past year.

Legal marijuana sales in Ontario have totaled $216.8 million in the first year of the drug’s legalization, the most out of all the provinces, according to Statistics Canada.

However, the province has lost out on $325 million in economic activity and approximately $50 million in tax revenue by not having as many marijuana stores as Alberta, according to an analysis by The Cannalysts Inc., an independent marijuana research firm.