Ontario’s cannabis regulator says it’s upping the pace of licensing weed stores for the third time in less than a year, with the latest pushing authorizations to 30 per week, from 20.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said in a blog post Tuesday that the change takes effect immediately.
In the first two years that Canada legalized recreational cannabis, major producers said a slow retail rollout in Canada’s biggest market hurt sales and allowed the illicit trade to thrive.
With a population of 14.5 million, Ontario hit 100 legal cannabis stores just last June. By comparison, Alberta had over 400 stores open then to serve 4.4 million people.
The Ontario government took steps to open up its legal pot shop market in December 2019, when there were less than 50 stores. That initiative included a plan to authorize up to 20 stores per month starting in April, but the push didn’t start until September. Tuesday’s announcement marks the third time that Ontario has sped up store authorizations.
There are now more than 430 licensed stores open for business, according the AGCO.
The retail footprint that keeps on growing! You can now purchase from 420 legal cannabis retail stores across Ontario, owned and operated by your local buds. We love growing with you, Ontario. Find a store near you: https://t.co/GA1K26YcY7 pic.twitter.com/rdwQ9Xs3fD
— Ontario Cannabis Store (@ONCannabisStore) February 9, 2021
The regulator says it’s received more than 1,630 cannabis store applications to date, and issued retail store authorizations to 489 of those locations.
“The AGCO continues to receive dozens of new applications each week,” the agency noted.
In mature U.S. markets like Colorado, there is roughly one store per 10,000 people — the kind of retail density the Canadian industry has been calling for.
The AGCO says there’s more than 940 store applications awaiting processing. At the new rate of 120 authorizations each month, it will take about seven months to clear the current licensing backlog and eight months for Ontario to reach a retail density of one store per 10,000 people.
After pandemic-related delays, the AGCO increased authorizations in September to roughly 40 stores per month.
In December, the AGCO accelerated the process again, that time to licensing 80 stores per month.
Ontario has led all provinces in adult-use sales since June 2020.
In November, Ontario recorded $82.9 million in recreational sales, which accounted for nearly one-third of all legal adult-use purchases in Canada for the month.
Top image via Nova Cannabis