'Wait and see': Ford government says opening of some private cannabis shops delayed
Cannabis users in Ontario might not be able to buy pot in person next week, as the Progressive Conservative government confirms that the process to set up standalone stores is taking longer than predicted.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said Monday that users will have to “wait and see” which of the 25 private retailers who applied for and were granted licenses will be ready to go on April 1.
“We will have stores open on April 1. I know that the AGCO is continuing to make sure that the 25 that have been approved get their stores open in a timely manner,” Fedeli told reporters at Queen’s Park.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) handed out just 10 of the 25 store authorizations, including one in Toronto, three in Ottawa, as well as stores in Brampton, Kington, Burlington and St. Catharines.
Fedeli did not provide a reason for the delay, but said that Ontario would proceed slowly on the process and “not rush into anything.”
“(Retailers) certainly knew when they went in that they have so many days after April 1 before fines kick in,“ Fedeli said. “Even more days, even more fines.”
Under the regulations set out by the Ford government, any retailer not selling cannabis by April 1 would face a stiff $12,500 fine, followed by another $12,500 penalty two weeks later, and a final $25,000 charge on April 30.
The government hasn’t said whether retailers would still face a fine if the delay was determined to be out of their control.
The AGCO said at least 12 private pot shops are still in the final approval process and will only be allowed to order and receive product from the Ontario Cannabis Store once they receive their authorization.
But the AGCO warns that despite authorization, stores will still be subject to a final pre-opening inspection before retailers are allowed to open their doors, which will add more time to the process.
At least 3 retailers who were selected as part of the “Expression of Interest” lottery have yet to even begin the process of opening their stores, for reasons that are unclear. Of those, is slated to be located in Toronto and two others in the GTA.
Currently in Ontario, recreational cannabis can only be purchased legally online through a government-run website.