Ontario To Issue Just 25 Licenses For Cannabis Retailers In 'Phased Approach'

Citing supply shortages, Ontario announced Thursday that they would now be taking a “phased approach” to issuing cannabis retail licenses.

Despite earlier claims that they would not be capping the number of licenses for retail pot shops, they announced Thursday that they would, in fact, be limiting the number of licenses dispensed in April to 25.

The province says that the licenses will be issued though a lottery system overseen by a third party to “ensure equality and transparency.”

This, of course, is following the Progressive Conservative’s stark change in cannabis policy for the province after defeating the Ontario Liberal government in 2018. Initially, the Liberals had outlined a plan to open 40 government-run retail shops by the end of the year, but that proposal was dropped after the election in favor of a private system.

Abi Roach, self-described “canna-preneur” and director of The Cannabis Friendly Business Association told Civilized that both businesses and consumers will be seriously affected by this decision.

“The consumer trust, which is necessary for the transition into a legal market, is disappearing quickly,” she said. “We also have people who have invested millions of dollars into real estate hoping to get multiple licenses, who will now be stuck with empty spaces.”

“Nor can we forget the people who closed up their grey and black market businesses in an effort become legal, and will now be asking, ‘what did I close up for?’”

She’s also concerned that a “monopoly situation” will emerge from decision, giving those with the initial licenses a leg up on the competition.

Despite her concerns, she acknowledges that, given the current situation, there is a certain logic to it, but that “it should have been better thought out from day one.”

“Instead, they waited until everyone was invested and ready before dropping the bomb,” she said. “It’s a shifty way to do business.”

Currently, the only legal way for Ontario residents to procure legal cannabis is through the government-run website, which has also been plagued by supply problems—among other issues.

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