This evening, after much anticipation, Ontario's government announced the proclamation of its new cannabis regulations. The Cannabis License Act, 2018,  and its regulations, are now officially in force.  

The regulations provide guidance for the retail scheme that will begin on April 1, 2019, under the supervision of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario ("ACGO"). The AGCO is now the official regulator of private recreational cannabis retail in Ontario. 

To be able to legally open a store in Ontario, applicants must obtain a Retail Operator License ("ROL"), by meeting all of the eligibility criteria in the Act and its regulations.  The ROL allows you to operate one or more stores in Ontario.  Each store must have a Retail Store Authorization ("RSA").  Each store must meet certain requirements with respect to store layout, locations, municipal approval, and other matters.  Each store location must have a licensed Cannabis Retail Manager ("CRM").  The CRM will ultimately need to meet the criteria as set out in the regulations.  Once designated, the CRM will be responsible for cannabis inventory, hiring and managing employees, and general operations of the store. The government has set a maximum of 75 RSAs per ROL.  

All RSAs will be required to be stand-alone stores.  The stores will need to be a minimum of 150 metres away from schools, as defined in the Education Act, including private and federally funded First Nation schools off-reserve.  

Retail operator licenses, cannabis retail manager licenses and retail store authorizations are not transferable under the Act and the regulations.  

The holder of a RSA may only sell cannabis that was purchased by the holder directly from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, ("OCRC") in the packaging in which it was purchased from the OCRC.  Sales must only be conducted in person.  All online sales will remain the responsibility of the OCS.  

The AGCO plans to begin accepting online applications on Monday, December 17, 2018.  All applications will have to be made online. 

The AGCO will be providing a summary of required application information in the coming days.  In the meantime, it has released an infographic of Ontario's Cannabis Retail Regulation Landscape.

The ACGO also intends to publish a Cannabis Retail Regulation Guide online.  This guide, will, according to the AGCO, be a comprehensive resource for aspiring retailers and will soon be available on their website.  The guide will expand and evolve over time.  

Initial chapters which will be included in the guide will be: 

  • "The Cannabis License Act, 2018 and its regulations; 
  • The Registrars Standards, which will govern the operation of retail stores; 
  • Licence and authorization types, the application process and fees; 
  • The one-time option municipalities have to prohibit cannabis stores from operating in their jurisdiction;
  • The public notice process related to the authorization of retail stores; 
  • AGCO inspections to ensure store readiness; 
  • The mandatory training that all cannabis store employees will have to successfully complete; and
  • Allowable advertising and promotional activities."

Those who wish to apply for a retail operator license, open and operate a retail store, or work in one, will need to comply with all of the regulations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.