Even though Canada legalized cannabis over 5 months ago, Ontario won’t have any cannabis stores open until April 1- which means that for 12 more days, the only legal option for citizens of Canada’s most heavily populated province is to buy cannabis off the government-run website.
Making matters worse, Ontario’s goal of having 25 private cannabis stores open on Apr. 1 is looking like a pipe dream at this point, making this year’s big April Fool’s Day joke on the Ontario cannabis consumer. But Ontario’s access to legal cannabis is already one of the worse in Canada- it has the ignominious distinction of being the only place in Canada (aside from Nunavut) to still not have any recreationalcannabis stores open.
But it’s chaos right now as many licensees hold public consultations while simultaneously being reviewed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), as they race to get their cannabis stores open in time. The mandatory public consultation period is no joke, either. It’s 20 days long and only kicks off after a potential location is announced!
There’s also a lot of money on the line for the license holders, who were required to put up a $50,000 line of credit through the lottery set up to award the licenses. If the lottery winners fail to open their store by Apr. 1, they’ll lose $12,500, and if they’re not open by Apr. 15? That’s another $12,500. They’ll lose all of it if their store is not open by the end of April.
But Ontario’s cannabis roll out was a failure from the start
There was no question that Ontario’s cannabis plans were a volatile disaster from the beginning.
Originally, the Ontario government was going to have a monopoly on recreational cannabis stores– that is, until a dramatic election dealt the ruling party a crushing defeat- and then the plan switched to a private model, with the new government pledging not to restrict the number of licenses issued. But after experiencing country-wide cannabis shortages (of the legal stuff, at least), Ontario decided it would initially issue 25 licenses for cannabis shops through a lottery (held in January). The licensing attracted almost 17,000 applicants, making the chances of winning a license to open a cannabis store less than 1 percent!
And what about those lucky winners? Many of them have little to no experience at all in the cannabis industry, meaning that Ontario’s first legal cannabis stores will be far from the craft mom-and-pop cannabis shops that some envisioned for Canada’s post-prohibition future because license holders have been teaming up with LP’s and chains like Fire & Flower, Tweed, and Donnelly Group’s Hobo Recreational Cannabis.