Ontario brick-and-mortar cannabis shops open today

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Today is the first day in Ontario that legal brick-and-mortar cannabis shops are opened but as of right now, it’s unknown how many of these shops are actually ready for business.

Recreational cannabis has been legal in Ontario since Canada legalized in October, but it’s so far only been available in the province online through the official provincial website. The Liberal provincial government had plans to open only government-run stores, but when a Conservative government was elected, they changed the plan so that privately-run stores could open.

The government, along with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission, handed out 25 licenses to lucky winners earlier this year. Those who entered were supposed be ready to open today but some are still reportedly working through the approval process.

“We know that some of them haven’t gone through their proper due diligence. Many of them are now going to be subject to fines,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. “It’s incumbent on the business community to act in a businesslike way and honour their obligations to the people of Ontario or pay the price.”

Those with one of the 25 licenses unable to open their store today are likely to pay fines of up to $12,500 and those unable to open by the end of the month could lose their $50,000 letter of credit.

Cannabis industry experts also predict that legal stores in the province are likely to experience many of the same hiccups that stores across the country have encountered since legalization took place last year, and that it could be even worse since many of the shops aren’t prepared for today. Industry expert and co-founder of Business of Cannabis Jay Rosenthal told CBC “I think there will be few shops opening on the 25,” and added that “the time horizon to get open by April 1st was really, really aggressive for any kind of business.”

Some business owners are concerned about issues like supply that have had a big impact on other provinces. Even though Statistics Canada has recently said that the Canadian inventory of dried cannabis is almost 19 times larger than total sales, some owners are still concerned they won’t be able to get enough product into their shops.

Retailers have to purchase their products through the provincially run Ontario Cannabis Store which has said they will distribute a “reasonable amount” for each store to operate sufficiently, but due to nationwide shortages has set maximum order sizes.

“Stores and customers should anticipate that the assortment of some products may be limited until the legal recreational marketplace stabilizes over time,” said OCS spokesperson Amanda Winton.

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