Alcohol and Gaming Commission breaks down how retail cannabis lottery will work

It’s a lottery cannabis retailers in Ontario are hoping to win this week.

To start, 25 stores across Ontario will open in April

Would-be marijuana retailers in Ontario are throwing their names into a provincial lottery this week. (David Horemans/CBC)

It's a lottery cannabis retailers in Ontario are hoping to win this week.

On Friday, the province will select the names of 25 entrepreneurs to operate Ontario's first legal marijuana stores. Two of those stores will be in northern Ontario.

The lottery is being overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

"I think it's important for people to realize that this is an expression of interest to submit an application. It's not an application in itself," Raymond Kahnert, senior communications advisor with the commission said.

He says if an entrepreneur is chosen through the expression of interest process, they will be expected to open their store in April, a date set by the province.

"So if one is selected in the lottery, you then begin an application process in which you indicate the community where you wish to locate your store," he said.

No chains

He says after the 25 are chosen, they can then apply for a licence to open a store. If they choose not to, are disqualified or decide to withdraw their name, entrepreneurs from a waiting list will be contacted next.

Kahnert says the 25 expressions of interest will be issued to 25 different people or businesses, meaning there will be no cannabis store retails chains created by this first lottery.

The province has stated retail cannabis stores will only be allowed to open in cities with a population of more than 50,000. That means the stores in northern Ontario can only be set up in Greater Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay.

Kahnert says the commission is working to have a fair and open process, but also is working to protect the public.

"This is about the public interest," he said.

Free and fair access

"So that when a store is open, a member of the public going into that store can be assured that this operator has gone through a rigourous process of approval and that there is oversight to ensure that they're going to act in good faith."

Allan Rewak, the executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, says the Ontario system allows entrepreneurs of all sizes to apply.

"Whether you're a small entrepreneur developing your business plans around your living room table or a larger corporation … this allows free and fair access," he said.

"We think it's a measured and appropriate first step, but it certainly can't be the last step. The lottery is only the beginning of the opening of retail stores and we need this process to continue and expand."

The Progressive Conservative government plans to start with 25 marijuana stores and grow to 150 private pot shops in the coming months.

The previous Liberal government would have seen 40 publicly run cannabis stores opened in time for legalization this past October.


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