cannabis lottery ontario

Toronto business owner suing the Ontario government over cannabis retail lottery

Ontario's cannabis legalization process has been fraught with complications and controversies, and the retail store lottery system is one of its most contentious problems.

As part of the rollout, the provincial government announced a lottery system would be put in place to limit cannabis retail stores to only 25, citing a shortage of product as the culprit.

Many were justifiably upset with the process, as it severely limits not only who can open a business under a provincial government that touts Ontario is "Open for Business," but the availability of stores for potential customers. 

Now, some are looking to sue the province.

One business owner, Chris James, of Cannabis & Coffee, says the "abrupt" decision to limit stores to 25 was a blow to his business, which had been prepared to file for a license upon legalization. 

James had been planning to convert the space, which is currently a cafe, into a cannabis retail store, which he now cannot do. He's suing for $1.1 million as a result, asking for reparations to his lost business, and a cannabis retail license.

He also points out that the province took the approach of asking "random" applicants to open the first 25 stores, rather than qualified, experienced owners that had been operating for years.

As the province announces the results of the lottery, many have been quick to note that the winners often have no cannabis retail experience. 

Ontario's first 25 cannabis stores are set to open April 1. 

Lead photo by

Cannabis & Coffee


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