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How To Open Up A Dispensary In Ottawa [August 2022]

How To Open Up A Dispensary In Ottawa [August 2022]

Applying For A Cannabis Retail License

In order to operate a cannabis retail store in Ontario, you must apply for both a Retail Operator Licence (as an individual) and a Retail Store Authorization (for each retail location you intend to open.)

For information about the application process and other regulatory and legal aspects of operating a cannabis retail store, consult the Cannabis Regulation Guide.

You will have to apply online 2 ways:

How to Apply for a Retail Operator Licence

Things to Know Before You Begin

The AGCO is now accepting Retail Store Authorization applications via the iAGCO portal.

See this journey map for a step-by-step process of opening a cannabis retail store. You can also view the potential RSA issuance date for new applications.

The AGCO will process applications as they are received. However, the first application received will not necessarily be the first issued as a number of factors determine the length of time to process it, including application deficiencies, the number of interested parties to be reviewed, the applicant’s responsiveness in providing required information, the volume of public responses submitted during the public notice process, the time the operator takes to build out their store to a point of readiness for inspections and the extent of the due diligence investigation.

The AGCO is committed to processing applications as quickly as possible with the objective of making a legal supply of cannabis more broadly available across Ontario. As regulator, the AGCO’s priorities continue to be ensuring that only eligible applicants are licensed and that licensed operators act with honesty, integrity, and in the public interest, following all laws, regulations and standards. In accordance with direction set by government, beginning in February 2021, the AGCO expects to issue approximately 30 RSAs per week as stores become ready.

 

Applying for a Retail Store Authorization

To apply for a Retail Store Authorization (RSA), you must either hold a valid Retail Operator Licence (ROL) issued by the AGCO or have submitted an application for a ROL with the AGCO. Applications for both can be submitted at the same time.

To submit your online RSA application via the iAGCO portal, you will need to know your:

  • Applicant Type
  • Legal Name
  • Legal Structure (i.e. Privately Held, Publicly Held, Trust, Not-for-Profit)
  • Retail Operator Licence Number or File Number of the application

NOTE: For RSA Intent to Apply – First Nations Reserve applicants for a cannabis retail store on a First Nations reserve who applied before August 1, 2019, you will also need to know your:

  • File Number of the Retail Store Authorization Intent to Apply-First Nations Reserve application (if your proposed cannabis retail store is located on a First Nations reserve, as defined in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018)

In addition, you will need to provide supporting information by uploading required documents relating to any third party agreements that were not disclosed in your application for a Retail Operator Licence. Please refer to the Supplementary Questionnaire for a list of agreements and details.

NOTE: Applicants applying for an RSA from March 2, 2020 onward who wish to operate a cannabis retail store on a First Nations reserve require a signed Band Council Resolution approving the store location.

If you are applying for a Retail Store Authorization, before a Retail Operator Licence has been issued to you:

  1. Business Name Registration 

The business name under which you intend to operate may have to be registered under the Business Names Act. For information regarding business name registration please call toll free 1-800-361-3223 or visit Service Ontario.

  1. Third Party Agreement

Applicants must provide all applicable third party agreements. For more information, please refer to the Supplementary Questionnaire for a list of agreements and details.

A cannabis Retail Store must be the only business that operates out of the proposed location, and the business cannot also operate as a restaurant, coffee shop, pharmacy, convenience store, etc.  For more information, see Retail Store Requirements.

NOTE: Your proposed cannabis retail store location must:

For more information on the standards and requirements for a cannabis retail store, please refer to the Registrar’s Standards for the Cannabis Retail Stores, the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

To submit an application for a Retail Store Authorization, you must make the non-refundable $4,000 Retail Store Authorization fee payment.

cannabis shops retail

Retail Operator Licence

To be eligible to open a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must have a Retail Operator Licence.

You are not eligible for a Retail Operator Licence if:

  • you are under 19 years of age. This includes directors, officers and shareholders of corporations.
  • you have been convicted or charged with certain offences:
    • any offence under the Cannabis Licence Act
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have, or previously had, certain roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada):
    • you are, or have been a member of the criminal organization
    • you are, or have been involved in the criminal organization
    • you contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization.
  • you are carrying on activities that are not in compliance with certain laws.
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have made a false statement or provided false information in your application.
  • you are in default of filing a tax return under a tax statute administered and enforced by the government of Ontario, or have any outstanding amounts owing and past due of tax, penalty or interest under those laws and have not made payment arrangements;
  • you have a business number with the Canada Revenue Agency and have not filed a tax return under certain Federal or provincial legislation;
  • the application will be made by a corporation and more than 25 percent of the corporation is owned or controlled, either directly or indirectly, by one or more licensed producers or their affiliates.
  • you will not be financially responsible in operating your cannabis business.
  • you will not operate your cannabis retail business in compliance with the law, or with integrity, honesty or in the public interest.
  • you will not have sufficient control over the cannabis retail business
  • you had a Retail Store Authorization in the past but the authorization was revoked

Generally, you must wait two years to apply again for a Retail Operator Licence if you:

  • applied for a new licence or renewal licence in the past but were refused, or
  • you had a Retail Operator Licence in the past but the licence was revoked.

You may have conditions put on your Retail Operator Licence to address any specific risks or concerns.  There are also conditions in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 that apply to all Retail Operator Licences.

You cannot transfer your Retail Operator Licence to another person or business.

 

Retail Store Authorization

To open a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must have a Retail Store Authorization.

There are some places where you cannot open a cannabis retail store. More information about that is in the next section on Retail Store Location.

Generally, you must wait two years to apply again for a Retail Store Authorization if you:

  • applied for a new Retail Store Authorization or renewal of a Retail Store Authorization in the past but were refused, or
  • you had a Retail Store Authorization in the past but the authorization was revoked.

You are not eligible for a Retail Store Authorization for a store if:

  • you do not have a Retail Operator Licence now, or would not have a Retail Operator Licence at the time when the Retail Store Authorization would be issued.
  • you have a Retail Operator Licence that has conditions that do not allow you to apply for or receive a Retail Store Authorization for that store.
  • you have been convicted of or charged with certain offences:
    • any offence under the Cannabis Licence Act
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 and Cannabis Act (Canada) or their regulations
  • you have, or previously had, certain roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada):
    • you are, or have been a member of the criminal organization
    • you are, or have been involved in the criminal organization
    • you contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization.
  • you are carrying on activities that are not in compliance with certain with certain laws.
    • Certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you hire or plan to hire someone who does not have a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence, but should have that Licence because of the work they do
  • it is not in the public interest, based on the needs and wishes of the people who live in the municipality where the proposed store would be located.
    • After you apply for a Retail Store Authorization, the Registrar will inform local residents and the municipality about the application by having a notice posted at the proposed store and on the AGCO’s website.
    • The municipality or local residents submit written submissions to the Registrar about whether the proposed store is in the public interest, as set out in regulation. The submissions must be sent within 15 calendar days after the notice is posted.
    • Relevant submissions are limited to the following matters of public interest:
      • protecting public health & safety;
      • protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis;
      • preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.
  • the store, equipment and facilities do not comply with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, regulations, the Registrar’s Standards or requirements
  • you do not have sufficient control over the store, equipment and facilities
  • you have made a false statement or provided false information in your application

A Licensed Producer and its affiliates are eligible to apply for a single RSA. The proposed cannabis retail store must be located on or within the site set out in the federally issued production licence.

You may have conditions put on your Retail Store Authorization to address any specific risks or concerns.  There are also conditions in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and regulation that apply to all Retail Store Authorizations.

You cannot transfer your Retail Store Authorization to another person or business.

How to Operate a Cannabis Store

There are rules you must follow when operating your store.

You must:

  • begin selling cannabis at your authorized store within one year of getting your Retail Store Authorization, and continue to sell cannabis
  • open only during permissible hours: between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on any day
  • display the official cannabis retail seal. You must post the seal in a place where people can easily see it from outside the entrance to the store. The seal must be at least 17 centimetres wide and 20 centimetres long. You can chose to post the French version of the seal, or the English version, or both.
  • remove the seal as soon as possible if your Retail Store Authorization is revoked or not renewed
  • post your Retail Store Authorization in the store in a place where people can easily see it
  • only sell cannabis that has been made by someone who is authorized under the Cannabis Act (Canada) to make cannabis for commercial purposes
  • keep records of specified information and activities
  • have measures in place to reduce the risk that your cannabis will be redirected to the illegal market or illegal activities
  • record all sales
  • make information about the responsible use of cannabis available to patrons
  • ensure that all licensed managers and other employees working in your store successfully complete the required Board approved training program prior to their first day of work at the store.
  • request identification of anyone who looks under 25 years old and be satisfied the person is at least 19 years of age prior to allowing them to enter the store.

You must not:

  • sell cannabis or cannabis accessories to anyone who is under 19 years old
  • allow anyone who looks under 25 years old to enter the store, unless you first request identification and are satisfied the person is at least 19 years of age
  • sell cannabis to anyone who is intoxicated or looks intoxicated
  • sell more than 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent amount of another kind) to a person in a single visit
  • hire anyone who is under 19 years of age.

You cannot sell cannabis or cannabis accessories from a display that allows self-service, or from a vending machine.

You must display your cannabis and accessories in a way that they cannot be seen by a young person, even from outside the store.

Cannabis Retail Conditions

As part of the AGCO’s risk-based licensing approach, one or more conditions may be attached to a Cannabis Retail Operator Licence, Retail Manager Licence and/or Retail Store Authorization by the Registrar to help the licensee minimize risks identified during the assessment process. Below is a complete list of the conditions the Registrar may impose, as approved by the AGCO Board of Directors:

# Condition
Honesty, Integrity and Financial Responsibility
1 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall notify the Registrar in writing within five (5) business days of entering into any agreement with respect to changes in ownership, control or affiliations of the licence holder or authorized store and provide proof that the agreement complies with all regulatory requirements and/or the lottery rules.
2 A licensed retail manager or the licensed operator must be onsite at the authorized store at all times while the authorized store is open.
3 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall have a written code of conduct for employees and provide proof that employees have read and understand the requirements.
4 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must notify the Registrar in writing within five (5) business days of any new source of funds used to support operations of the holder of the licence and/or the authorization or operations of the authorized store.
5 A licensed retail manager must perform the following duties at the store: (DUTIES)
Minors
6 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that the identification of every individual who appears to be under the age of 25 years is inspected at entrance(s) to the authorized store and at the point(s) of sale.
Safety and Security
7 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall maintain a log confirming the security camera equipment is functioning at all times. The logs shall be made available for inspection and review upon request by the AGCO.
8 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall retain all surveillance recordings for at least XXX day(s).
9 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that there is a sufficient number of licensed and visibly identifiable security personnel at all times while the authorized store is open.
10 The authorized store shall be staffed with at least XX (number of) licensed and visibly identifiable security guard(s) from XX:XX (am/pm) until closing.
11 The authorized store must be equipped with a working monitored alarm system to detect and log attempted unauthorized access to and unauthorized movement within the authorized store premises.
12 The holder of the licence and/or retail store authorization shall ensure that measures are in place to prevent and address disorderly conduct on the authorized store premises, property adjacent to and in the vicinity of the premises by persons either waiting to enter or persons exiting the premises.
Prohibited Person(s)
13 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that the following individual(s) is/are not permitted to enter or be at the authorized store: (NAMES)
14 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure the following persons have no involvement in the business operations of the authorized store, including as an officer, director, shareholder or owner and/or have no involvement or beneficial or financial interest in the business or ongoing operations of the licence: (NAME(S)
15 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that the following individual(s) is/are not permitted in the authorized store except to perform duties arising from his/her position as landlord or sub-landlord in accordance with the following terms:

(NAME(S)

(TERM (S)

16 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that the following individual(s) is/are not involved directly or indirectly in the operation and financing of the business:
17 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall not employ the following individual (s) in any capacity: (NAME(S)
Product Security and Record-Keeping
18 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must ensure that physical inventory counts are carried out on a daily basis for each day that the authorized store is open, that a log is kept, and any discrepancies are reported in writing to the AGCO within 24 hours.
19 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must submit in writing a report to the AGCO on a biweekly/weekly basis of all inventory movements of cannabis products.
20 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall ensure that all employees are subject to screening for stolen product before exiting the authorized store.
21 The holder of the licence may not transport cannabis between their authorized store locations.
22 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must notify the AGCO in writing within 72 hours in advance of destroying any cannabis.
23 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must ensure that after operating hours, all cannabis is locked in a secure storage room accessible only by authorized staff.
24 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must maintain a list of employees that are authorized to access the secure cannabis storage room.
25 The secure cannabis storage room may not be used for any other purpose other than the storage of cannabis.
26 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must ensure that sensory display containers are physically tethered or affixed to a secure surface.
27 The holder of the licence and/or authorization may not use sensory display containers in the authorized store.
28 The holder of the licence and/or authorization must ensure that patrons do not handle any cannabis until it is purchased.
Compliance Plans
29 The holder of the licence and/or authorization (applicant) shall submit by (DATE) a proposed compliance plan to the Registrar for review and filing that addresses the objectives identified by the Registrar, including but not limited to the following issues: (ISSUE TYPES)
30 The holder of the licence and/or authorization (applicant) shall submit by (DATE) a proposed compliance plan to the Registrar for review and approval that addresses the objectives identified by the Registrar, including but not limited to the following issues: (ISSUE TYPES)
31 The holder of the licence and/or authorization (applicant) shall comply with the compliance plan filed with the Registrar.
32 The holder of the licence and/or authorization (applicant) shall comply with the compliance plan approved by the Registrar.
33 The holder of the licence and/or authorization shall keep the compliance plan onsite at their authorized store(s) and make it available to AGCO upon request.

Cannabis Retail – Plans

As part of the AGCO’s risk-based licensing approach, the Registrar may require that a licensee prepare one or more plans to address areas of risk identified during the assessment process. Below is the type of plan the Registrar may require, as approved by the AGCO Board of Directors:

Compliance Plan

A plan designed to ensure that the authorized store is operating in compliance with the overall cannabis retail regulatory regime in place in Ontario, helping to protect the public-at-large, as well as the licensee, from potential harm caused when regulations are not followed. The plan must identify best practices, policies and other requirements that the licensee will adopt in order to achieve specific and general compliance goals, with a primary focus on the regulatory requirements that are specific to retail cannabis licensees.

This includes reasonably addressing issues such as record-keeping and inventory management, safety and security, management structure and policies, preventing access by minors, preventing illicit activity, the type of products available for sale, staff training, store policies, internal control issues, and other general compliance issues.

 

Licence and Authorization Fees

There are fees required when you apply for your Retail Operator Licence, Retail Manager Licence, or Retail Store Authorization and fees when you renew these licences or authorization.

Fee payments must be received by the AGCO before a licence or authorization application can be processed. If an application is withdrawn, or if the AGCO refuses to issue the licence or authorization for any reason, the fee is non-refundable.

The fees are:

Fee

2-year term

Renewal Fee
2-year term
Renewal Fee
4-year term
Retail Operator Licence $6,000 $2,000 $4,000
Retail Store Authorization $4,000 $3,500 $7,000
Cannabis Retail Manager Licence* $750 $500 $1,000

*If you are a sole proprietor, you will not need to get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence for that store.

 

 

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