‘This was a fair process’: Ontario Attorney General defends pot shop lottery system
The Ford government is defending its cannabis lottery licence system days after an illegal pot shop received the opportunity to open up a legal store in Toronto.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced the results of the province’s second cannabis store lottery on Wednesday. The agency said it received more than 4,800 eligible expressions of interest in the lottery draw.
The applicants have until Aug. 28 to complete an application to open a store, which will then be vetted by the AGCO.
Of the 42 applicants that were chosen in the lottery, 13 provided addresses in Toronto. One address matched an illegal cannabis dispensary on Harbord Street that police have previously barricaded using cement barriers. The chain continued to sell their products on the sidewalks, leading to multiple arrests.
“Well, they haven’t received the licence,” said Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey. “They’ve received the opportunity to apply for a licence, so there’s a big distinction in that.”
“It becomes a question of resources in terms of whether you want to vet everybody across the province who has an interest, or do what we chose to do, which is to create a lottery and then vet those who won the lottery.”
Other Ontario cities are also noticing some odd results from the pot shop lottery. In Oshawa, two of the winners listed the same address for their store and three cannabis stores in the Town of Innisfil are set to be located on the exact same street in an industrial park.
Critics say that some people took advantage of the system, entering hundreds of applications and winning several potential licences.
“It’s a lottery . It’s a game of chance,” said Abi Roach, the owner of Toronto's HotBox Cafe. “By … putting in more entrants and more entries, you’re gaming the system.”
Roach said that she believes applications and licences should be awarded based on a merit-based system.
“There is no other business that has to go through a lottery to get a licence,” she said. “It is absolutely absurd.”
However, Ontario’s attorney general said he has confidence in the system and that applicants should “take solace in the fact that this was a fair process.”
“Had we manhandled the process, you wouldn’t have those kinds of results. We’ll now go through the process of making sure that we check backgrounds and capacity and relationships and all the things the public would expect us to look at.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello