Cannabis is now legal across Canada, and in Ontario the provincial government is aiming to have the first retail stores up and running by April 1, 2019. If you are considering getting into the retail cannabis business, there are some things you should keep in mind before you do so. While retail cannabis can potentially be lucrative—the recreational market in Canada alone is estimated to be worth $6.5 billion—it is also tightly regulated. So make sure you keep these four points in mind if you want to open a cannabis dispensary.
Not All Municipalities Will Allow You to Open a Cannabis Dispensary
The Ontario government is giving municipalities across the province the option of opting out of allowing cannabis retail stores in their communities. The municipalities must inform the AGCO by January 22, 2019 if they wish to opt out. Once a community opts in it cannot later decide to opt out. Don’t assume that your municipality has opted in since some large cities—including Markham and Mississauga—have opted out.
All of Your Cannabis Supplies Must Come from the Ontario Cannabis Store
If you open a cannabis dispensary, you should be aware that you will have to order all of your cannabis from the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). The OCS, which is a Crown corporation, is the only legal cannabis wholesaler in the province. This means that the OCS purchases cannabis from growers and producers that have been licensed by Health Canada and then sells the cannabis to retail stores.
If You Are a Cannabis Producer Then You Cannot Open a Retail Store
Likewise, if you are licensed by the federal government to produce or grow cannabis then you are not permitted to open a retail store. The Ontario government has stated that for the time being licensed producers who grow cannabis for commercial purposes cannot receive a retail licence. However, this rule does not apply if you only grow cannabis legally for personal use.
You Will Need One—and Maybe Three—Licences to Open a Cannabis Dispensary
Depending on how many stores you plan on opening, you could need as many as three cannabis dispensary licences. Your company will absolutely need a Retail Operator Licence, which authorizes you to open a retail store and sell cannabis. However, each individual store you plan to open will then need its own Retail Store Authorization. Then, each store will need a licensed retail manager who holds either a Retail Operator License or a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence. So, if you plan on opening and managing just one store, your Retail Operator License should suffice. But if you plan on opening multiple stores, then any store where you are not responsible for management duties will need someone with a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence.
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Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) to learn more about our cannabis programs!