Toronto cannabis retail stores struggle to open by April 1 deadline
With 10 days left until Ontarians will be allowed to purchase cannabis at one of 25 retail stores in the province, many of the license holders are struggling to get their shops ready to open on time.
The winners of the cannabis retail license lottery in Ontario have had just over two months to get their stores ready by the April 1 deadline.
Felicia Snyder works with Tokyo Smoke, a cannabis company that has licensed its brand to one of the five lottery winners in Toronto. Crews are working around the clock converting an old HMV building near Yonge Street and Dundas Avenue into a two-story cannabis store.
“To be in the cannabis industry, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and you have to be prepared to pivot and make changes quickly,” Snyder said. “But ultimately, for us, it’s all about delivering to the consumer education-led experiences to open up this category.”
Based on the construction still underway at GTA pot shops, it is not clear how many stores will be able to open by the deadline.
“Due to the particularities of each file, every one of the 25 applicants is moving through the process and are currently at different stages,” said the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, who oversees the regulation of retail cannabis in Ontario. “That said, it is difficult to predict how many stores in Ontario will be ready to open right as of April 1.”
Back in January, the AGCO gave 25 companies the right to apply for a retail cannabis licence. As part of the deal, each company agreed they would be able to open a store and start selling cannabis at the beginning of April.
Companies were told they could face penalties if they can’t get their doors open on time. The commission said that if the applicant is not selling cannabis by April 1, they could be charged $12,500. An additional $12,500 will be withdrawn if they aren’t selling by April 15 and another $25,000 on April 30.
Three other cannabis stores are working to open in Toronto, but only the Hunny Pot on Queen Street West has been authorized to sell cannabis. The authorization is the final step before a licence is granted.
“There’s only 25 of us,” said Cameron Brown, who works with The Hunny Pot. “We’re trailblazers in a brand new industry in one of the biggest markets in Canada and we wanted to make sure we do everything properly.”
With files from CTV News Toronto's Heather Wright