How To Prepare For Ontario’s Cannabis Retail Application

Finally, the long-awaited AGCO Press Release went out on November 14th, 2018 at 5:30 pm containing only some of the vital information that private cannabis retailers have been hoping for to help get the ball rolling. The news came first to those subscribed to the AGCO Newsletter (subscribe here if you haven’t yet subscribed). The AGCO will be publishing a Cannabis Retail Regulation Guide on-line. This will be a comprehensive guide that will include relevant information about cannabis regulation in one location available on www.agco.ca, the information will be published here in a piece-wise manner. Lastly, the AGCO will be hosting a series of educational webinars and posting a summary of the required application information.

Some key points that are discussed:

  • Retail stores must operate a minimum of 150 meters from schools (keep in mind that the distance to other sensitive buildings have not yet been addressed i.e. daycares, places of worship, learning centres, cash-advance/pay-day loan businesses, etc..);
  • Retail Owners will be able to open a maximum of 75 stores;
  • Zero tolerance policy to selling cannabis to persons under 19 years of age will be enforced; 
  • Manager and Employee Training will be mandatory,
  • Private retail recreational cannabis stores will be permitted to open between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on any day.

Still worth considering is that the Ontario government has given municipalities until Jan. 22, 2019 to decide whether to allow private retail cannabis outlets to open within their borders or opt out. There is also a public noticing process for the authorization of retail stores, which could make it more challenging for retailers to operate in some areas. As we have continued to do, we will look to Alberta and B.C. to make the most-educated guesses as to what will come to Ontario over the coming weeks. The release of official forms required to apply will be available on December 17th, 2018. No applications will be accepted before this time.

Many of the potential retail store operators I have spoken to, unfortunately, were disqualified before even beginning in the rat race. Any dark traces on that criminal record that were violent in nature? Found on the wrong side of the law? Disqualified! Involved with the mob? Disqualified! Haven’t paid your taxes in a decade? Doubly-disqualified. The security clearance and financial integrity checks will be an integral part of the licensing process.

So, now what? Well, there’s a lot that you can do to prepare.

Step 1 – Know where you want to operate.

Many of the hopeful retail store owners and managers have been waiting for every last regulation to come out before even starting a conversation with their realtor. Start a conversation early on with your realtor and let them know you’re looking (make sure to be honest). If you haven’t looked at real estate options in your municipality, contact a realtor today and start a conversation. Many properties in key locations are being nabbed by outsiders from western provinces (such as Fire & Flower) as they are looking to capture that market share. It’s important as well to know your audience, if you live in a very conservative town, it might be wise to keep a couple of options open.

If you’re one of the riskier individuals that has property secured from months ago. Congrats. You’re probably playing craps right now at the MJBiz Conference in Vegas, laughing at all of us that are glued to our screens constantly hitting the refresh button on the AGCO website. Chances are that you might be sweating a bit if the regulations take a turn for the worst and you are locked in to that 5-year lease without an escape clause.

Step 2 – Draft up a solid Business Plan and secure Investors.

A solid business plan is an integral part of any venture, especially one that require investors. Many have looked to sites such as CannaBusiness for plans that contain spreadsheets, CapEx charts, SWOT analysis and a Marketing Strategy. For something a bit more turnkey, its recommended to speak to someone like Barry Sharp of Sharp Business Plans to be able to tailor this plan to you and your specific retail goals.

Step 3 – Reach out to your municipality; go and introduce yourself.

Call your local mayor. Explain your background and interests to city councillors. Set a good example. There’s strong chance that your municipality is experiencing some pushback in regards to allowing cannabis retail stores to open. If you are kind, relatively smart and well spoken, you are a great representative of the industry – an industry that has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs into your area. By making friends with your municipal government, there’s less of a concern about letting you operate in the neighbourhood so to speak. And, heck, they might even invite you to meet other influencers and decision makers in City Hall.

Step 4 – Make friends.

Once you have drawn up a good business plan for your operation and you have your investors. Feel free to call up retailers in other provinces and start a conversation. If there is an industry that is opening to talk and to sharing experiences, its in cannabis. Ask retailers in other provinces about their challenges or pitfalls in a phone call or make the trip and ask for an in-person interview. In Edmonton, Alberta there are currently six cannabis retail stores operating, and there are two in Calgary (a short flight/drive away)

Step 5 – Look to the west for direction.

Familiarize yourself with the regulations from other provinces. Provinces such as B.C. and Alberta are relatively good litmus tests for what we can expect here in Ontario.

Oh, and if you are still operating a cannabis dispensary in Ontario, you might be a little too late to this party. If you are operating illegally and get caught, you will be barred from having a retail licence issued to you, forever.

  • Find out more about the licensing process for private recreational cannabis stores on the AGCO website

Step 6 – Secure a good consultant.

Consultants are worth their weight in gold. They can seem expensive, especially as an initial investment but they will save you time, so much time. And they will save you a ton of money in the long run. A good consultant is both knowledge about the cannabis industry and passionate about helping others. Having a good consultant on your side to talk to will make the process a lot less daunting and get you faster to your goals. There are several experienced consultants that will make the process easy for you from day 1. Only a few of these consultants will offer to work with you beyond the point that you submit your application until the time you obtain your licence. Look for a consultant company that has a strong scientific, legal and business background.


For more info on opening your own cannabis retail store, email us at info@canndeltav2:8890 or call us at (416) 613-8569 and toll free at 1 (877) 274-6777.