Ontario Will Limit Number of Dispensaries Allowed Within the Province

The policy could dramatically alter Ontario’s recreational marijuana market.
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In an about-face from earlier positions, provincial lawmakers in Ontario today announced that it will place a limit on the number of private dispensaries that will be allowed to open in the province. Initially, Ontario planned for a gradual rollout of recreational retail without any limits on the number of private dispensaries. But in an announcement today, lawmakers said they will now cap private dispensaries at 25.

A Change in Policy

Provincial authorities announced the policy change in a statement issued earlier today. In the statement, they said that Ontario will now adopt a “phased approach” in which only a set number of private weed shops will receive licenses.

This is a marked change from earlier plans. In particular, as Canada prepared to legalize weed earlier this year, the Ontario Liberal provincial government said it would not restrict the number of privately-owned dispensaries.

But now, the new approach coming primarily from Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leadership will set a limit on those shops. As reported by Huffington Post, today’s announcement said that Ontario will only give out 25 licenses for privately-owned weed stores.

Additionally, the province plans to select businesses in a lottery. The winners of that lottery will be announced in Jan. 2019, the announcement said.

All of this comes in the lead-up to Ontario’s rollout of privately-owned and operated recreational dispensaries. For now, the Ontario Cannabis Store, a state-run online retailer, is the only place to buy legal recreational weed.

But that’s set to change on April 1, 2019. At that time, the province will allow private weed shops to open. And now, after today’s announcement, there will be a maximum of 25 private shops when that date rolls around.

Responding to Supply Shortages

In explaining the new policy, Conservative lawmakers said the decision is a response to supply shortages. When weed became legal in Canada on Oc. 17, there was massive immediate demand.

So much so, in fact, that many dispensaries had lines out the door. Many dispensaries ended up selling out much faster than anticipated.

Making the shortage even worse, many wholesalers and state suppliers also did not have enough product to keep dispensaries stocked. Now, growers and producers around the country are scrambling to increase production.

Despite this, many experts predict that it could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months before Canada’s supply of weed is able to keep up with demand.

Facing this shortage, lawmakers in Ontario hope that having a smaller number of private dispensaries will make it easier for supply to catch up.

Beyond shortages, Ontario’s recreational weed system has had its fair share of other hiccups. Last month, consumers noticed mislabeled products on the province’s online retailer Ontario Cannabis Store.

Then, a short time later, news surfaced that there had a been a data breach involving Ontario Cannabis Store customers. The breach reportedly occurred when an unauthorized person at the Canadian postal service managed to access a database of customer data.

And most recently, the province was part of a recall of marijuana buds. The move came after consumers in Ontario and British Columbia found mold on their weed.

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