The legalization of adult-use cannabis and subsequent private cannabis retailer framework has opened a world of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. All owners and operators of cannabis retail stores are subject to the provincial Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations, and the AGCO’s Registrar Standards.
These laws are intended to ensure that only responsible and lawful businesses and people receive licenses to own and operate cannabis stores. They aim to minimize the public risk of cannabis store operations and allow for ongoing monitoring of the operation of these businesses.
Engaging a law firm to properly license your business is strongly recommended, and business owners should also educate themselves regarding the applicable laws and regulations. We've put together the following Cannabis FAQ to address some of the most popular questions regarding cannabis retail licensing.
You can make an appointment to speak with a cannabis lawyer on the phone by clicking here.
How much does it cost to apply for a cannabis retail license?
What type of licenses are required under the Cannabis License Act?
There are three types of licenses you will need to operate a retail cannabis business:
1) RETAIL OPERATOR LICENCE
To be able to legally open a retail store to sell recreational cannabis, you must get a Retail Operator Licence. To get this licence, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations. A Retail Operator Licence allows you to operate one or more retail stores in Ontario. However, you must have a separate Retail Store Authorization for every store you wish to operate.
2) RETAIL STORE AUTHORIZATION
You must have a Retail Store Authorization for each one of your stores because the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations require that each store meet certain requirements. Requirements relate to such matters as the store layout and location. The regulations also give residents of the municipality in which the proposed store would be located the opportunity to provide their input.
3) CANNABIS RETAIL MANAGER LICENCE
In order to ensure the responsible sale of cannabis, there must be at least one licensed manager for each authorized store location. The Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations set out eligibility criteria for the person who will have management responsibilities in authorized stores. This includes having responsibility for the cannabis inventory, for hiring and managing employees, and for ensuring the store operates with honesty and integrity at all times. If you are a sole proprietor, and will be both the licensed operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store, you do not need to get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence for your store.
What happens if my application for a license is refused?
A person who has been refused a retail operator licence or the renewal of a retail operator licence, or who was the holder of a retail operator licence that was revoked, may not apply for a retail operator licence until after the second anniversary of the refusal or revocation, unless the Registrar is satisfied that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the refusal or revocation.
Who is NOT eligible for a license?
There are many reasons why an applicant may not be eligible for a Retail Operator License. The AGCO will review your eligibility, and they will also review persons “interested” in you.
Persons “interested” in you means any other persons who have a beneficial interest of any kind in your business, or may exercise direct or indirect control over your business, or has provided, or may have provided financing to your business.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of reasons for which you may be denied a license.
You are under 19.
There are reasonable grounds to believe that you will not be financially responsible in the conduct of your cannabis retail business, having regard to your financial history, or the financial history of a person interested in you.
There are reasonable grounds to believe that you will not carry on business in accordance with the law, or with integrity, honesty or in the public interest, having regard to your past or present conduct, or past or present conduct of persons interested in you.
You or a person interested in you has been convicted of or charged with an offence under federal or provincial cannabis laws.
There are reasonable grounds to believe that you are carrying on activities that are, or would be if you were the holder of a retail operator licence, in contravention of or not in compliance with cannabis license laws.
The Registrar is not satisfied that you will exercise sufficient control, either directly or indirectly, over your cannabis retail business.
You or an employee or agent of you makes a false statement or provides false information in the application.
Who regulates cannabis licensing in Ontario?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the regulator for privately run recreational cannabis stores.
Where do I obtain the inventory for my private retail store?
The Ontario Cannabis Store is a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario and is the only legal supplier (wholesaler) of cannabis for private retail stores in Ontario. The OCS operates the only legal online store for recreational cannabis sales in Ontario. The AGCO does not regulate the OCS.
Are cannabis retail stores allowed in my municipality?
Ontario municipalities have a one-time option to opt out of having cannabis retail stores in their communities. Municipalities have until January 22, 2019 to inform the AGCO if they wish to opt out.
Can I sell cannabis online?
No, section 20 of the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 states that "The holder of a retail store authorization shall ensure that all aspects of the sale of cannabis through the cannabis retail store, including ordering and payment, are conducted in person at the store."
How much cannabis can I sell to an individual customer?
The holder of a retail store authorization must ensure that the amount of cannabis sold to an individual in the cannabis retail store in a single visit, whether in a single or multiple transactions, does not exceed 30 grams of dried cannabis.
What is the minimum age to work in a cannabis retail store?
You must be at least 19 years old to work in a cannabis retail store.
Can my cannabis store be "audited"?
examine records or anything else that is relevant to the inspection, including examining and opening any receptacle or package;
demand the production of a record or any other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
on issuing a written receipt for it, remove a record or any other thing that is relevant to the inspection for review, examination or testing;
on issuing a written receipt for it, remove a record or any other thing that is relevant to the inspection for copying;
in order to produce a record in readable form, use data storage, information processing or retrieval devices or systems that are normally used in carrying on business in the place;
take photographs or make any other kind of recording; and
inquire into all financial transactions, records and other matters that are relevant to the inspection.