Ontario is set to triple the number of provincially licensed pot shops with 50 new cannabis retail stores set to open beginning in October.

The Progressive Conservative government announced on Wednesday that at least 42 of those stores will open in cities across the province, while eight will be set aside for First Nations reserves.

Toronto will see the largest increase in cannabis retail operations with 13 new licenses up for grabs – bringing the total number of stores in the city up to 18.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the reason behind the surprise increase in retail licenses is a “marginal improvement” in the national supply of cannabis.

Premier Doug Ford’s government has always maintained that the federal shortage of legal weed has been the primary reason behind the slow rollout of cannabis retail in Ontario.

Attorney General Doug Downey cautions however that the province isn’t moving full steam ahead.

“While the federal supply issues persist, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licenses to businesses,” Downey said in a news release. “A phased-in approach remains necessary.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) originally issued 25 licenses province-wide, through a lottery system monitored by a third party.

However, licensees were given limited time to lease a storefront, meet the provincial regulations and purchase product from the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) before opening on April 1. As a result, fewer than half were able to meet the deadline and many faced stiff penalties from the AGCO.

Downey told CP24 the new process is “different from the last one” because new retailers will have to pre-qualify for a license by securing a retail space and having enough cash in the bank to open a pot shop.

“They have to make sure they have the resources to make it happen,” Downey said.

Downey added that the government could expand the availability of cannabis licenses once the OCS gives them the green light.

“That’s very much what’s driving the number 50. We’ve heard from the OCS that they can supply that number.”