Ontario will begin accepting cannabis store applications in January, with authorizations starting at about 20 per month beginning in April, the province’s Ministry of the Attorney General announced Thursday.
The province did not say how the 20 stores will be allocated among the hundreds of operator license applications expected to flood into the Alcohol and Gaming Commission beginning Jan. 6.
“In response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis, our government is determined to open the cannabis market as responsibly as possible,” Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement.
Ontario had been under significant industry pressure for months to allow more stores to open.
Until Aug. 31, the province will allow retail operators to own a maximum of 10 cannabis stores, rising to 30 in September 2020, then 75 in September 2021.
Starting immediately, licensed producers are allowed to own or control up to 25% of a corporation holding a cannabis retail operator licence, up from the previous 9.9%.
Industry group Cannabis Council of Canada said the moves are “serious measures that will lead to more market certainty and give consumers more options to purchase legal, regulated, cannabis products.”
“Today’s announcement underscores that the Ontario government understands the economic impact and importance the legal cannabis sector has on the provincial economy,” the group said.
The restriction on the number of stores will be maintained at 93 until March 2.