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Ontario is unlikely to meet its target of having 25 privately owned cannabis shops open by April 1, an analysis of licence applications shows.

Four of the lottery winners who won the right to apply for the coveted first wave of licences haven’t even announced their locations yet.

For those four in particular, from Toronto and the GTA, the deadline looks impossible. The public is allowed 15 days to comment after locations are posted. Lottery winners have five days to reply to those comments. That’s a total of 20 days, and as of Thursday there were only 17 days remaining until April 1.

For another five stores, the public comment period ends between March 19 and March 27, which is tight timing.

It’s difficult to predict how many of the 25 stores will open on time. Construction, public comments and scrutiny of applicants by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario are all happening at the same time in a mad dash to open the shops.

Ontario is the only province or territory except Nunavut that doesn’t yet have bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores. Residents can only legally purchase through the Ontario Cannabis Store online.

Stores were delayed after the province ditched plans by the previous Liberal regime for government-run outlets in favour of privately owned stores.

The province had planned to issue an unlimited number of licences but changed course because of provincial shortage of cannabis.

The number of licences was temporarily limited to 25, and a lottery was held in January to determine who could apply for them. It cost $75 to enter the lottery.

There were nearly 17,000 lottery entrants. Most of the winners were individuals, many with no experience in the cannabis industry or running a store.

A flurry of deal-making ensued as lottery winners reached agreements with companies eager to gain a foothold in the potentially lucrative cannabis retail trade. That also create delays as the AGCO scrutinized deals to make sure lottery winners maintained control and ownership. One lottery winner has already been disqualified for breaking those rules.

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/province-unlikely-to-meet-promise-of-25-cannabis-shops-by-april-1-analysis-shows

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