ontario cannabis lottery

Ontario cannabis store licensing process halted amidst legal challenge

Ontario's cannabis retail licensing process has been put over, as of Thursday, while judges review a legal challenge to determine whether or not 11 applicants were unfairly disqualified.

A few weeks ago, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced the results of the second-ever cannabis retail lottery, revealing which prospective pot shop owners could apply for a license to sell weed legally.

Forty-two hopeful business owners (13 in Toronto) were randomly selected as part of the lottery draw out of 4,874 applicants in Ontario, according to the AGCO.

Of the 42 chosen, 17 have already been disqualified across the province, most for failing to pay mandatory registration fees (which include a $50,000 letter of credit) within five days, for failing to submit their application documents in the same amount of time, or for failing to immediately prove that they're allowed to occupy their intended location.

Others were disqualified under Cannabis Retail Store Allocation Lottery Rule number 8c, which covers everything from an applicant's legal status to the availability of cannabis within a particular region.

It's members of the former group who are now holding up the entire licensing process with a legal challenge — and they're well entitled to, some might say.

A lawyer representing 11 lottery winners who were disqualified by the AGCO claims that his clients weren't given sufficient time to submit their documents and fees to the province.

Peter Brauti argued at a court hearing on Thursday that his clients were not given the requisite five days notice that they'd been selected in the first place.

The AGCO apparently emailed notices to the applicants, but all of those emails bounced back. Still, the province expected the applicants to submit their materials five days from when the emails were sent.

The applicants, on the other hand, assumed they had five days from the date of receiving formal letters, which came by mail two days after the original emails went out (and came back to the AGCO).

Siding with Brauti and his clients, a judge decided to pause the cannabis licensing process province-wide so that a judicial review could take place.

That review, in which it will be determined whether or not the 11 applicants were disqualified unfairly, is set to take place on September 25.

Until then, the licensing process will remain on hold, meaning that you won't see any new legal pot shops pop up in Toronto (or anywhere else) very soon.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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