On November 27, 2018, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (“AGCO”) published its initial chapters for the Cannabis Retail Regulation Guide (the “Cannabis Guide”). The Cannabis Guide is intended to provide applicants of retail cannabis licenses with a brief overview of the retail scheme that will begin on April 1, 2019, and the application process for retail cannabis licenses. As more information becomes available, the AGCO’s Cannabis Guide will be updated. This article focuses on the application process.
The AGCO intends to open the application process on Monday, December 17, 2018. All applications will have to be made online through AGCO’s online portal iAGCO. Each applicant will have to create an account in order to submit an application.
There are two licenses and one authorization that will be required in order to open a retail store and sell cannabis. The Retail Operator License (“ROL”) must be obtained in order to open a retail store and sell cannabis as a Licensed Retail Operator (“LRO”). The ROL allows the LRO to operate one or more retail stores in Ontario. Each store must have a Retail Store Authorization (“RSA”) and each store must also have a licensed Cannabis Retail Manager (“CRM”). In certain instances the CRM may be the same individual as the licensed retail operator, in which case a CRM license will not be required. The government has set a maximum of 75 RSAs per ROL. For more information on the requirements and eligibility to obtain a ROL, RSA and/or CRM license, see Whitney Abrams’ article “Ontario Cannabis Licence Act, 20118 and Regulations Proclaimed into Force” and the Cannabis Guide.
The Cannabis Guide outlines the applicable fees for each license and authorization at the initial application phase and upon renewal:*if you are a sole proprietor or in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the LRO and performing the duties of a CRM, you will not be required to obtain a CRM license for that retail store.
With respect to the application process and/or renewal of licenses and authorizations, applicants may have to provide the following information:
**this may include proof of residency, employment status and history, financial competency, tax return or tax assessment, etc.
The AGCO may also conduct additional background checks and investigations on the applicant.
Prior to opening a retail store and prior to working at a retail cannabis store, all holders of a RSA and/or CRM license and all employees working at a retail cannabis store must successfully complete an AGCO board-approved training course, much like the Smart Serve certificate for employees of the LCBO. The AGCO intends to release information about the training course in February 2019.
The retail store where the applicant intends to sell cannabis must meet certain requirements with respect to store layout, location, municipal approval, and other matters. All retail stores must be stand-alone stores, they must be a minimum of 150 meters away from schools, as defined in the Education Act, including private- and federally-funded First Nation schools off-reserve, and they must be located in a municipality that has not opted-out of having retail cannabis stores. Municipalities have a one-time opportunity to pass a resolution and notify the AGCO by January 22, 2019, to opt-out of having retail cannabis stores. The AGCO has a list of municipalities that have chosen to opt-out on its website, The list will be updated as municipalities pass resolutions.
Each retail cannabis store must have a licensed retailed manager. The duties of a licensed retail manager can only be performed by an LRO and/or CRM. The LRO and/or CRM will be responsible for supervising, managing and hiring employees, managing the sale of cannabis and its inventory, ensuring compliance with all relevant legislation and regulations, the purchase of cannabis, and the general operations of the store.
Those who wish to apply for a retail operator license, open and operate a retail store, or work in one, will need to comply with all the relevant legislation and regulations. Feel free to contact any member of the Cannabis Law Group at Minden Gross LLP to help navigate the regulations and the application process.