This week the application process for the first 25 cannabis retail licences in the province opened and the results of a lottery are expected shortly.
The government said the firm cap on the number of stores that will open this spring was needed due to what it called serious cannabis supply issues that had to be addressed by the federal government.
Recreational cannabis can currently only be purchased legally in Ontario through a government-run website. The Progressive Conservative government has said the first private stores will open April 1 and had initially said it would not put a cap on the number of outlets.
The Ontario government’s move to limit the first phase of outlets to 25 was seen as the only fair way forward for business owners investing capital in shops.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which will regulate the province’s retail cannabis outlets, is taking applications until noon Wednesday.
There is a $75 fee to submit an expression of interest and those selected through the lottery will have five business days to turn in their application along with a $6,000 non-refundable fee and a $50,000 letter of credit.
Those receiving licences will be picked randomly today, with the results expected to be announced publicly within 24 hours. The licences are being divided regionally, with five going to the east of the province, seven in the west, two in the north, six in the Greater Toronto Area and five in Toronto itself.
The AGCO has said it can levy thousands in fines if applicants who get retail licences do not open their stores on time. Failing to sell pot by April 30, for example, would result in a $25,000 fine.
One consumer advocacy group criticized the government for its plan to start with just 25 stores.
However, critics point out that it is doubtful that companies drawn will be able to meet the quick ramp-up requirements to open their stores by April 1.
If they fail to do so, heavy fines will come their way. -CINEWS