an established chain of high-end vape stores

Aggressive expansion plan is already in place that will focus on Canadian retail and US Hemp derived kiosks in high traffic areas

Message: Mapped: Ontario’s cannabis store shortage isn’t ending any time soon

By: Matt Lundy

Big chunks of Ontario will remain without a legal cannabis shop for some time.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on Wednesday unveiled the 42 winners who can apply for a retail-store licence, spread across five regions of the province.

But an analysis by The Globe and Mail shows that large parts of Eastern and Southwestern Ontario are left out – at least, until the next lottery, or however the system evolves. As a result, thousands of potential clients will have to travel long distances – perhaps even hours – to buy legal marijuana in-person.

Needless to say, Ontario has taken a slow approach to adding cannabis stores, sparking waves of criticism. To date, 24 stores have been approved to open, and another has submitted its application, according to the AGCO. The provincial regulator recently announced eight First Nations that can also apply for retail licences.

All told, there will eventually be 75 stores serving Canada’s most populous province of some 14.5 million. Put another way, Ontario is slated to have 0.52 stores for every 100,000 residents, based on the most recent population estimate from Statistics Canada.

That pales next to other provinces. Consider that Newfoundland and Labrador, with 25 stores, has 4.8 for every 100,000 residents.

By way of comparison, Colorado had roughly 10 recreational outlets for every 100,000 residents, as of the spring. The U.S. state, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, is a “mature” market, according to AltaCorp Capital. To match Colorado’s store supply (on a population-adjusted basis), Ontario would need to add nearly 1,400 stores beyond the 75 either open or planned.

The map above shows cannabis storefront supply by census division, which are intermediate geographic areas between provinces and municipalities. Ontario has 49 census divisions, of which 24 do not have a marijuana store open or planned. The largest of them is Peterborough County, which had a population of close to 140,000 as of the 2016 census.

To some extent, geographical representation is influenced by local politics. Dozens of jurisdictions have decided to not allow cannabis shops to open, ranging from villages such as Point Edward (population: 2,037) to bigger cities such as Vaughan (population: 306,233).

Even then, census divisions are broader geographic areas, often encompassing several municipalities. So, if your town won’t allow cannabis shops, chances are somewhere close by does. For instance, Wasaga Beach has opted out of allowing cannabis shops, while nearby Collingwood has not. (A location in Collingwood was one of Wednesday’s winners.)

Of course, consumers province-wide have been able to buy marijuana since Day One of recreational legalization, using the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

But the retail experience is key to sales, along with stamping out the black market, experts say.

Before Ontario had any physical stores, Alberta was generating higher legal cannabis sales, despite having less than one-third of Ontario’s population. No doubt, revenue was helped by a robust retail rollout; today, Alberta has easily the largest number of stores in the country.


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