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The 2020 Consultant’s Guide to Opening a Licensed Cannabis Retail Store Dispensary in Ontario

Want to Open and Start a Dispensary? This is the Lawyer & Cannabis Consultant’s Guide To Opening and Starting a Dispensary To Sell Recreational Retail Cannabis in Toronto or Ontario under the Cannabis Licence Act.

What Do I Need to Know to Open a Cannabis Retail Store Dispensary in Toronto or Ontario?

The Ontario government allows licensed, private retail stores to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories in brick and mortar stores. Toronto based Lawyer Harrison Jordan has experience assisting those who were selected by the AGCO to submit applications to sell cannabis in their proposed retail store.

What is the Retail Operator Licence and Retail Store Authorization?

The AGCO has held two lotteries to decide who will obtain the opportunity to apply for a Retail Operator Licence (ROL) and a Retail Store Authorization (RSA) under Ontario’s Cannabis Licence Act, and subsequently sell cannabis and cannabis accessories. These applications are required and will cost you around $10,000 total.

Premier Doug Ford announced in November 2019 that Ontario would move to scrap the pot shop lottery and move to allow an open allotment starting January 2020.

Now, applications for Retail Operator Licences will be accepted from January 6th 2020. Retail Store Authorizations will be accepted starting on March 2, 2020, and it is anticipated applications will be reviewed as they come in, starting at 12:01AM. 20 RSA licences are expected to be released every month. See the government’s announcement here.

Do You Need a Retail Operator Licence and Retail Store Authorization Application Cannabis Consultant?

Unlike the first second lottery, there are no pre-qualification requirements. Regardless, Be prepared to show the AGCO that you have access to a significant amount of funds, as developing a cannabis store will inevitably reach into the mid 6-digits.

Harrison Jordan is a Toronto-based lawyer & cannabis consultant that focuses exclusively on cannabis matters. He holds multiple clients that have won opportunities from the AGCO to apply to open a store. He has a nuanced understanding of the entire process and can help you from point A to Z.

 It can be exciting to start a legal retail cannabis store dispensary, but it’s not all fun and games. There are certain things you have to consider before you get started. 

What do you need to apply for an Ontario Retail Operator Licence (ROL)?

Capital Requirements to Open – The most important thing to consider. It will cost a lot of money to open a cannabis store. Application fees on their own can top $10,000 from the AGCO, and in addition to that you will have to spend thousands  on obtaining real estate, obtaining security systems, and building the store up to the province’s standards. Expect to require an initial expenditure of at least $250,000 to $1,000,000. Can it be done for less? Maybe – but be aware it will be a challenge and you may not be able to offer that “Apple Store”-like experience you want your customers to experience.

Background Review – If you are an owner, part-owner, director or officer of the applicant, be prepared to file information related to your background and integrity. You will be asked whether you have been charged with any provincial or federal offences or whether you have ever declared bankruptcy, amongst other things. I can help determine whether the AGCO is likely to approve or deny your application for these reasons. The AGCO can refuse a Retail Operator Licence or Retail Store Authorization in the event that the applicant, or a person “interested in” the applicant has demonstrated that there are reasonable grounds to believe that they will not be financially responsible, having regard to their financial history, or that they will not carry on business in accordance with the law, with integrity, honesty or in the public interest, having regard to past or present conduct.

Security Requirements – You will need to adhere to intensive security requirements. The best thing to do for this is to hire a security consultant, who will put together a comprehensive security plan. Your store will need to have continuously monitoring video surveillance on some of the more important areas of your store.

TCV Number– You will need to obtain what is called a TCV number from the government when you apply for the Retail Operator Licence. Haven’t generated more than one TCV Number I can take care of that for you.
Corporate Documents – You will have to attach your company’s articles of incorporation and it is a good idea to attach any By-Laws, as well as Shareholders Agreements.
Details of Shares – Each shareholder holding 10% or more of the shares must be disclosed.
Financial Statements – There is a spot for financial statements. It is unclear if they are required to be uploaded.

What do I need to Apply for an Ontario Retail Store Authorization (RSA)?

Location, location, location. You want to choose a location that has consistent traffic or that serves and under-served market. I can assist with the leasing process in reviewing any leasing agreements or proposed Offers to Lease. Special considerations need to be taken care of so that you can back out of the contract (called a “termination right”) if you are not able to secure the final authorizations required by provincial regulators.
Architecture and Interior Design
I am not an architect but can put you in touch with one who has cannabis architecture experience. I have established relationships with experts in their fields. Explore partnerships with companies that can provide you with a boost to your menu signage and other customer features.
POS and other systems
I have a great relationship with third party vendors that service cannabis retail store owners, such as Point of Sale systems or menu boards. We can determine what we can do within your budget to ensure you have happy customers that keep coming back.
Standard Operating Procedures
I have developed a set of 55 Standard Operating Procedures that go through everything from cash management to curb-side pickup to delivery). These are important so that you can adequately train your staff and demonstrate to the AGCO that you have a set of protocols in place for all workers at the store. The SOPs are now standard in the flat fee package that I charge clients, but if you looking for the cannabis retail SOPs on their own you can always reach out to me.
Keeping out minors
Minors cannot be allowed inside the premises. As a best practice, you should always have at least one security guard stationed outside or just inside your store to check identification of ALL patrons and to keep the peace.
15-Day Notice Period
After submitting your Retail Store Authorization (RSA) application, your application will proceed to the 15-day notice period. During this period you will have to post a certain notice on the property in which you are establishing your retail store
Under the Cannabis Licence Act, you can have your licence or authorization refused or revoked. It is important you hire a lawyer to ensure that you can challenge any determinations that are adverse to your interests.
Can I sell CBD (cannabidiol) cannabis products?
With the proper authorizations from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, you may sell all kinds of cannabis products, whether THC or CBD-containing. Note that Ontario has not instituted any prohibitions against the sale of vape pens and cartridges, something that authorities in other provinces are taking a look at.
Whether you are thinking of applying to open a cannabis store in the Greater Toronto Area or not, we can assist. Here are some prime, under-served areas where we think cannabis retail stores would do best: (Note that some municipalities may have not not “opted-in” to cannabis retail stores yet).
• Toronto, Ontario
• Guelph, Ontario
• Kitchener, Ontario
• Waterloo, Ontario
• Barrie, Ontario
• Muskoka, Ontario
• Hamilton, Ontario
• Mississauga, Ontario
• Brampton, Ontario
• Dundas, Ontario
• Oshawa, Ontario
• Scarborough, Ontario
• East York, Ontario
• North York, Ontario
• Markham, Ontario
Is there an Ontario-based location that we’re missing? Let us know during your consultation and we can let you know if the municipality has “opted in” at this time to allow recreational cannabis sales

Why hire a lawyer?

Harrison Jordan, Ontario Cannabis Lawyer

I’m a Toronto-based lawyer assisting small businesses with applying for their cannabis retail applications, including Retail Operator Licence (ROL) and Retail Store Authorization Applications under the Cannabis Licence Act. Call me at 1-855-542-0529 or email me. One reason to call Harrison Jordan? I only focus on cannabis-related matters. You want someone on your side that understands the cannabis-related dimensions to your legal issues.

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