ontario cannabis lottery

Ontario is scrapping its controversial cannabis lottery system

The Ontario government's widely-criticized lottery system for awarding cannabis retail store licenses will be no more as of January, according to Attorney General Doug Downey.

Downey announced in a news release late Thursday that Ontario will be eliminating "the temporary cap on number of private cannabis stores in the province," as well as removing existing pre-qualification requirements for retailers.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will begin accepting applications for new licences on January 6, and new store authorization applications on March 2.

Starting in April, stores will be approved "at an initial rate of approximately 20 per month," according to the news release.

Retail operators will be capped at owning a maximum of 30 cannabis stores across Ontario in 2020, with the option to have as many as 75 by September of 2021.

Along with opening up the market, Ontario's new rules will also allow weed to be sold alongside weed accessories, and let licensed producers open their own, on-site storefronts.

It's a mighty win for the Canadian cannabis industry, which has been suffering in recent months due (at least in part) to a lack of retail storefronts in the country's most-populous province.

Around 25 legal weed stores currently exist across all of Ontario more than a year after marijuana was legalized for recreational use. Alberta, by comparison, has 324 retail cannabis stores.

Some 42 more licenses were won across the province through the government's second-ever cannabis lottery, but a serious overabundance of inventory still remains in Ontario, where more than half of Canada's 243 licensed producers are located.

Market analysts, disgruntled entrepreneurs and customers alike have been criticizing the lottery system — which awards licenses based on luck, as opposed to merit and competence — pretty much from its inception.

Not only has the lottery been panned as bad for local business, it's effectiveness and legality have both been questioned at length.

Experts have also linked the cap on cannabis retail store authorizations to Toronto's continued abundance of black market weed dispensaries.

"We have said all along that opening more legal stores is the most effective way to combat the illicit market, protect our kids and keep our communities safe," said Downey on Thursday.

"That is our number one priority."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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