Skip to main content

Here's why the cannabis market in Toronto is facing chronic growing pains


Toronto has more than 400 legal cannabis retailers, but an industry that was once experiencing a “green rush” is now finding itself amidst chronic struggles.

“Right now it’s just being run and decisions are being made without involving retailers and without really making decisions in alignment with us, and that’s I think a huge failure in the market right now,” said Vivianne Wilson, founder of GreenPort Cannabis on College St. in Toronto’s Little Italy.

Wilson says there ought to be a third party to regulate and advocate for retailers and producers dealing with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which regulates retail licenses, and the Ontario Cannabis Store, which is the only legal wholesale supplier to retailers.

The federal government is reviewing the Cannabis Act, which outlined the legalization of marijuana in Canada. It also downloaded many regulations around supply and consumption to the provinces.

In Ontario, it is the AGCO that oversees handing out licenses. In the beginning, a lottery system limited the number of retailers, but store owners and managers tell CTV News Toronto there are now no protections from having several shops open in the same area, so long as they remain over 250 meters from a school.

“We knew there would be over-saturation,” Wilson said, and that was articulated to the AGCO.

Now there are fears many of the stores that have opened will close, with about a third of cannabis sales remaining in the illegal market, Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Thursday in announcing the legislative review.

A lawyer who has represented legal pot shop retailers says she has received several calls from Toronto retailers being undercut by the black market.

“There are people who have joined the legal market in good faith and got the licences to become retailers and yet they sometimes find themselves situated beside an illegal pot shop, that is doing better business than them and often probably selling better products,” Kendra Stanyon said.

A major problem the barrister says is what she called a “chokehold” on the products available, such as with edible cannabis, where smaller producers that wanted to be part of the legal market have been left out.

The review of the Cannabis Act, according to a summary paper, will focus “on aspects of the framework within areas of federal jurisdiction.”

That won’t help many in the business, Wilson said.

“This review of the cannabis act at a federal level is not going to change what they’re doing at a provincial level, so we’re going to continue to see stores close, unfortunately,” she surmised. Top Stories

Stay Connected