Central Cannabis Owner Chris Comrie stands inside his newly opened store at 666 Wonderland Rd., April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Ontario to add 50 new retail pot stores

The Ford government has announced it will hold a second lottery for 50 new cannabis retail stores across the province.

A release from the government said it is in response to marginal improvements in the federally licensed supply of cannabis.

Dozens of people line up for the grand opening of Central Cannabis at 666 Wonderland Rd., April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Dozens of people line up for the grand opening of Central Cannabis at 666 Wonderland Rd., April 1, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The West Region, which encompasses Windsor, Chatham-Kent, Sarnia, and London will get 11 new stores.

Eastern Ontario will get seven; another six will open in the Greater Toronto Area, and 13 in the City of Toronto itself. Northern Ontario will get a store in Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and in Timmins.

Another eight stores will be located on First Nations reserves. Those licenses will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips and Doug Downey, Ontario’s Attorney General made the announcement Wednesday morning.

“Despite the ongoing federal cannabis supply shortages, Ontario is taking further action to protect young people, keep our roads and communities safe, and combat the illegal market in response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis,” said Downey. “While the federal supply issues persist, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licenses to businesses. A phased-in approach remains necessary.”

The provincial government said it would continue to “urge the federal government to take steps to rapidly increase the volume of supply available to the legitimate recreational cannabis market.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will accept expressions of interest online this summer from businesses wishing to open a retail cannabis store. The pre-qualification requirements, the application process, and lottery timelines are on the commission’s website.

The stores are expected to start opening in October of this year.

There are still 20 applicants on a waitlist for the West Region from the first lottery in January which awarded licenses to 25 businesses province-wide. A release from the Ford government does not say if those on the waitlist will have first priority in the second lottery.

Windsor was left out of the first lottery, as was Sarnia and Chatham-Kent. London has three legal pot stores.

The only other place to legally purchase recreational marijuana is online through the Ontario Cannabis Store.