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If you are thinking about opening a cannabis store in Ontario then you need to prepare all the requirements to start. Ever since Canada legalized the use and the growing of recreational marijuana in the country, there has been an increase in the number of people who wish to start their own cannabis business.
Just like any other type of business, there are some requirements that you need to complete to receive certification.
Ontario’s cannabis retail program
This is the best time to start opening your own cannabis store in Ontario. The province is slowly creating their own retail program and is using a phased approach to establishing physical stores. It is estimated that retail stores will open and will start selling cannabis by April 2019.
The Ontario provincial government has new rules regarding licensing and the retail sales of cannabis. It is recommended that business owners who wish to open up a cannabis store to use an efficient system for tracking and reporting. This is the very first thing you need to consider to comply with the province’s guidelines.
Remember that the province is just starting to formulate their own rules and therefore these rules could change at any time. Be sure to refer to online sources regularly to make sure that you comply with provincial cannabis retail requirements.
In Ontario, the government entity that handles licensing for physical cannabis shops is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. This is the ONLY licensing body for retail outlets for marijuana products in the province. On the other hand, producer or grower licenses are handled by Health Canada.
Not all municipalities in Ontario are pro marijuana. Some do not want to participate with retailing cannabis and may opt out of the program. There was an opt out window provided by the government and this has ended on January 22, 2019. If the municipality does not opt out on or before the said date, this means that it is willing to participate in the regulation of the cannabis retail industry in the province.
It is important to check if your municipality has opted out or has decided to join the AGCO in regulating cannabis retail. This can greatly affect your plans in opening your own cannabis store so you need to be very specific.
At present, the Ontario Cannabis Store is the only publicly operated store online and delivery systems where residents can purchase legal weed.
How many retail stores will be licensed by Ontario in April?
Those who wish to open their own cannabis store in Ontario will need to hurry and should complete their requirements right away. Only 25 retail licenses will be distributed in Ontario and choosing which company gets to participate will be done using a lottery system.
The reason why the number of retail stores will be regulated is because there is currently a shortage in the supply of cannabis products in Canada. The lottery draws to determine which company gets to start is said to be only temporary. As soon as the supply is up, there won’t be any problems securing a license to start your own shop.
Licenses needed to start a retail cannabis store
There are three authorizations needed to be able to start your own retail cannabis store in Ontario:
First, you need a Retail Operator License. This is for people who will be operating the cannabis store or retail outlet. Next, you need a Retail Store Authorization which is an authorization to operate a physical store. Different locations have different authorization requirements so be very careful.
Finally, you also need a Cannabis Retail Manager License. This is required for people with management responsibilities to make sure that business is done seamlessly. A retail manager should be able to supervise the business’ employees, oversee and coordinate the retail of cannabis, manage compliance regarding the sale of cannabis and sign the purchase of cannabis, enter contracts and offer employment opportunities.
You need to have all three licenses to be able to start your own cannabis store in Ontario. Initially, you need to get a Retail Operator License and then a Retail Store Authorization. Lastly, you need to have a Cannabis Retail Manager License.
You cannot get a Retail Store Authorization License without completing the requirements for a Retail Operator License.
Meanwhile, if you are the sole owner and you will also be the manager of the cannabis store then you are not required to apply for a Cannabis Retail Manager License.
Eligibility requirements for these licenses
To be eligible for these licenses, you must be at least 19 years old. You must also be financially healthy with no charges and convictions under the Cannabis License Act of 2018. You must not have any previous or current associations with criminal groups and all the information you have provided must be the truth.
Cost of applying for a license
A Retail Operator License costs $6,000 and will be valid for 2 years. It has a $2,000 renewal fee for 2 years or $4,000 for 4 years. For Retail Store License, you will need to pay $4,000 for 2 years. It has a $3,500 renewal fee for 2 years or $7,000 for 4 years. To pay for a Cannabis Retail Manager License, you need to pay $750 for 2 years. It has a renewal fee of $500 for 2 years or $1,000 for 4 years.
Submitting your requirements for a license
To apply for a license, visit the AGCO’s online site. This is where you will submit your application through their online service delivery portal. You must create an account first to get your own portal to manage your license and to check on notifications and for renewing your license.
Requirements for a Retail Operator License
You need the following to be considered for Retail Operator License
- Constituting documents
- Schematic diagram of your business
- Details of shareholders
- Tax return and tax assessment
- Financial statements
- Personal history
Requirements for a Retail Store Authorization
Once you are done completing your Retail Operator License requirements and after the fees have been paid, you may now apply for a Retail Store Authorization license. For this, you will need your Proof of Ownership/Tenancy and Business Name Registration.
The AGCO recommends that you complete the following before you submit your application:
- You must confirm the actual location of your store. The store location meets all the requirements.
- For a location inside a reserve, you need to show approval stated in a Resolution of the Council of the Board.
- You must have your Retail Operator License application number or license number.
- Check that your store name complies with Provincial and Federal laws under advertising and promotion.
Requirements for Retail Manager License
You must obtain a completed Personal History form from the AGCO. Included in this form are your employment histories and unemployment history. You may also be asked to submit tax returns and tax assessments as well. For more information about Ontario’s cannabis retail licensing requirements, visit AGCO’s official website and look for the Cannabis Retail Regulation Guide.
Requirements for retail workers
At some point, your cannabis store may need additional workers. Under Ontario’s cannabis retail laws, all individual that works in a cannabis retail store should undergo employee training that is approved by the AGCO. This training should be completed during the first day of employment in any cannabis store.
Training includes basic cannabis knowledge. It will briefly explain what cannabis is and its effects. Training will also include the socially responsible sale of marijuana as well as the rules that are related to the sale of marijuana. Workers should also understand the legal and compliance responsibilities for retailers.
The cannabis store requirements
Following the Cannabis License Act of 2018, a cannabis store should be located in a municipality or a reserve that has agreed to participate in the retail cannabis program. The store should not be within 150 meters of a private or public school.
Cannabis stores should only be open for business from 9 AM to 11 PM Mondays to Sundays. However, different municipalities may set their own rules regarding the hours of operation of these establishments.
The store must be the only business found inside the store. Aside from selling cannabis, these stores should only sell approved cannabis accessories such as bongs, bubblers, pipes and rolling papers.
Remember basic cannabis sale laws in Ontario
The minimum age for buying recreational marijuana in a cannabis store in Ontario is 19 years old. This is a similar age for purchasing tobacco and alcohol in the province.
Adults, more than 19 years of age are allowed to carry a maximum of 30 grams or an ounce of dried flower. Purchase limits should never exceed 30 grams but may be of lesser amounts.
To regulate the packaging of cannabis products, all items such as accessories and bags should always follow advertising rules that are provided by AGCO.
When it comes to online cannabis sales, the AGCO will have the Ontario Cannabis Store online marketplace. Online sales of cannabis started in October 2018.
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