Ontario Retail: Preparing for Next Steps
Have you entered the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (AGCO) lottery to gain one of the 25 coveted winning spots for Ontario cannabis retail? Are you prepared if you are chosen as one of the winners or are asked to apply for a Retail Operators Licence (ROL) and a Retail Store Authorization (RSA) if one of the winners is deemed ineligible?
The Expression of Interest to enter the lottery was extremely straight forward to complete. There were few prerequisites to vet the qualifications or abilities of the lottery entrants to be able to complete the subsequent steps, and it appears as though the number of lotter entrants were very high. However, throughout the AGCO website and in their public communications, there are explicit warnings that if you were not prepared to open a cannabis retail store on April 1, 2019 you should not participate in this lottery because the next steps are aggressive.
The timelines are light speed: have a store open by April 1, 2019 or start paying fines mounting to fifty thousand dollars. With lottery winners being posted on the AGCO website on January 12th, 2019 applications available on the 14th, the ROL application due on the 19th. The RSA applications must be submitted by the 25th, giving winners very little time to react to the municipalities that are waiting until the 22nd of January to opt in or out.
CCI has a great deal of experience in preparing thorough retail applications for provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta and retail experience in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. And we know that completing an application and understanding all the requirements within 5 days will be no easy feat. Implementing a compliant facility, from scratch, in less than a month is also close to superhuman.
To meet the tight timelines the winners of the lottery will be at an advantage if they have already done some preparation. They will need to have their corporate structure, financial information for the business and key individuals. They will need to have a retail location available in the region they were awarded. Floor plans and security overlays for their stores will likely be a requirement as we have seen in other jurisdictions. Knowing the municipality that you intend to conduct business in and the process required for building permits will also be an essential advantage. With RSA slated to be issued starting March 4th the clock is ticking for opening day.
The penalties are large, but many of the lottery entrants see this already as a lost sum. Many of the applicants we see know that identification of a site, building permits and construction won’t be possible for April 1st, so the fines may be inevitable. Taking the time to open the site with proper infrastructure and compliance programs will be more important for applicants than a fee.
For those fortunate enough to be one of the 25 eligible to apply for an ROL and RSA, congratulations! CCI has the expertise and knowledge to submit thorough and compliant applications and help you through the various stages of the opening process such as site layout and design, security systems, inspection preparation and grand opening! Contact our subject matter experts to get your retail cannabis business up and running compliant with Health Canada regulations.
Written by: Angela Park, Manager Licensing and Compliance – Cannabis Compliance Inc.