The most populated Canadian province, Ontario, has failed to keep up when it comes to issuing cannabis licenses to recreational marijuana retailers. Ontario cannabis regulators have only issued around two dozen business licenses trailing well behind B.C. with 157 and Alberta with more than 300. Earlier this week, the Cannabis Council of Canada sent an open letter to Ontario premier Rob Ford imploring him to increase the number of adult-use marijuana dispensaries to improve access and secure a stronger foothold in the Canadian market.
The Cannabis Council of Canada is comprised of 35 federally licensed cultivators who claim that the lack of retailers is hindering them from fully investing in the industry. They argue that the cannabis shortage that initially loomed large over recreational cannabis sales, no longer exists. The letter doesn’t mince words on this issue saying, “There simply is no longer a shortage.” Health Canada’s data reinforces this statement, even though lawmakers have continued to blame the slow rollout on shortages.
By sending this letter, the Cannabis Council of Canada is hoping to accomplish two things. The first request they ask of Premier Rob Ford is to change the policy that prohibits cannabis cultivators from opening more than one adult-use dispensary at production facilities. Rob Ford actually maintained that he would do this after he was elected however these changes have yet to be implemented.
The letter, authored by CEO’s of some of the largest cannabis companies in Canada, reads, “Unfortunately, our ability to continue to invest and sustain the jobs that we have created is being severely challenged by the province’s current retail cannabis policy framework.”
The second request by the Cannabis Council of Canada encourages the Ontario Premier to push through regulations that will allow a significant increase of private marijuana retailers. From the beginning, Ontario saw lackluster sales using the government run online cannabis store, and only after a few brick and mortar stores opened in April did sales begin to spike.
Online sales in March of this year totaled $7.6 million CAD, but as soon as storefronts opened in April, sales jumped to $20 million CAD. As of August, this number increased to $34 million CAD and the Cannabis Council of Canada are submitting this as evidence to license even more dispensaries in Ontario.
“We urge you to instruct your ministers and officials to make every effort to enact all the necessary regulations to allow the number of private cannabis retail points of sale to significantly increase to support Canada’s licensed cannabis producers,” the CCC asks of Ford.
In order for the Ontario cannabis industry to thrive, it has to have more retailers to create more competition and make products more affordable so consumers choose to buy legally. The heads of these major cannabis companies are ready to invest more into the market but will only do so if the supply chain can support growth.
The letter points out that, “Unless the Ontario government changes course and allows for an expanded regulated retail network, we won’t be able to meet that objective and consumers will continue to turn to the illegal market.”