In order to operate a cannabis retail store in Ontario, you will need to obtain three licences: the Retail Operator Licence, a Retail Store Authorization, and a Retail Manager Licence.

This article goes into some detail on the requirements for the three licences, otherwise known as the ROL, RSA, and RML, respectively.

In Ontario it is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (otherwise known as the AGCO) that manages the cannabis retail store application process.

Cannabis Retail Operator Licence

Retail Operator Licence for Cannabis Retail in Ontario

The first licence you will need to obtain is a retail operator licence. For the application you will need to:

• Disclose the corporation that is the applicant
• Disclose all directors, officers, and shareholders
• Disclose the source (or sources) of funds, including the identity of the source, the amount of funds, whther there is an agreement with the source, and whether the source will have any involvement in the business.

In addition:

• Both the corporation and the above-mentioned individuals need to fill out a disclosure questionnaire from the AGCO
• These questions request information from you, including whether you have ever been charged or convicted of an offence, and whether you have sought a bankruptcy before
• The applicant and the associated individuals will undergo an interview and background check by the Ontario Provincial Police

The cost of a Retail Operator Licence (ROL) is $6000, and it is due at the time of submission.

Cannabis Retail Store Authorization

The second licence you will need to obtain is actually an authorization called the Retail Store Authorization (RSA). You need to obtain an RSA for each location. In your RSA application you will need to disclose:

• The address of the store
• The location of the
• The name and contact information of the landlord
• When you will be ready for the Public Notice placard period
• When you will be ready for your AGCO Inspection
• When you intend to open to the public

The Public Notice placard period is a 15 day period in which you must post a purple-hued placard on the front of your location indicating that it is a cannabis retail store authorization applicant. Your location is also listed on the AGCO website. The public will have 15 days to submit any concerns they may have about the location, and the AGCO expects you to reply to the concerns made. The AGCO can take the public notice submissions into account and technically refuse your authorization (I have only seen this happen once).

After the placard period begins, you will need to get an inspection from the AGCO. Among other things, they are looking to see that cannabis products won’t be visible from the outside, that you have a fully installed 24/7 security camera

The RSA costs $4,000 per location, and you must pay the fee when you apply for the licence.

AGCO Retail Manager Licence for Cannabis in Ontario

At least one director of your corporation needs to have a Retail Manager Licence (RML). This person can be the active manager of your store(s), however if they are not, you will additionally need another individual to obtain their RML so that they can manage the store. Each manager can be responsible for up to 5 store locations. The questions on the RML application questionnaire are substantially similar to the disclosure questions that must be answered by individuals through the ROL process.

Anyone conducting the following activities will need to have a Retail Manager Licence:

  • supervise, manage or hire employees of the store
  • manage the sale of cannabis
  • manage compliance issues relating to the sale of cannabis
  • buy cannabis for the store
  • enter into contracts for the store. 

The Retail Manager Licence costs $750 and it is due at the time of submission. You cannot transfer an RML to a different individual.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:

How do you get a retail manager licence?

You will need to apply for a Retail Manager Licence from the AGCO website and answer the disclosure questionnaire.

Do you need a licence to work in a dispensary?

Anyone working in the cannabis retail store will need to have their CannSell certification. As well, managers conducting certain functions, such as entering into contractors or placing orders with the AGCO, must have their Retail Manager Licence.

What licences do I need to start a dispensary in Ontario?

You will need to apply for and obtain a Retail Operator Licence (ROL), a Retail Store Authorization (RSA), and at least one director of your corporation must hold a Retail Manager Licence.

Can I apply for a Retail Operator Licence and Retail Store Authorization at the same time?

Yes. You will have to apply for an ROL first, but you can apply for an RSA any time immediately thereafter, as long as you have the address of the location you would like to apply for.

How much does a dispensary licence cost in Ontario?

The Retail Operator Licence costs $6000, a Retail Store Authorization costs $4000, and Retail Manager Licence costs $750. These fees are non-refundable and are due at the time of submission.

Harrison Jordan is a cannabis lawyer assisting cannabis retail applicants through the AGCO cannabis retail process. Get in touch with him today to see how he can help. You can reach out to him via the contact form or by calling his office at +1.647.371.0032.

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