In the meantime, the provincial government has many regulatory decisions to make about cannabis retailers. Those retailers could easily number in the hundreds or even thousands as many businesses enter the newly legal industry.
Meanwhile, established retailers are expanding horizontally into cannabis. Second Cup may convertsome of its 130 Ontario coffee outlets to cannabis. It’s already readying shops in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Grocer Loblaw is similarly preparing for sales in Newfoundland and Alberta, so Ontario could follow.
Illegal shops may want to be legit
Given the wide interest, Ontario can expect far more than the 40 shops its previous Liberal government had planned. This leads to the first regulatory question: should the province cap the store count? Other provinces provide hints of what’s possible.
No store cap in Alberta
Aside from store totals, should Ontario otherwise restrict the industry’s structure? For example, Manitoba is limiting the number of store operators. It’s initially licensed only four chains, though more may follow later.
For example, will Ontario only allow standalone cannabis shops? Or will it also permit smaller outlets within larger stores?
Grocers will want to sell
In Ontario, big grocers would presumably prefer this approach. Some already have wine outlets or beer aisles. They’d likely emphasize convenience and value but carry limited selections.
Cannabis counters would also fit small towns that can’t support standalone shops. The LCBO already sells liquor this way, via 212 agency stores.
Conversely, standalones would better suit cannabis growers and speciality retailers. They’d offer wider selections and more service.
Those employees should take care when travelling. As Canadians were recently reminded, American border agents can permanently ban cannabis workers from entering the U.S. So, if heading south on vacation, ensure your cars don’t display company parking passes or stickers. And don’t wear cannabis-brand clothing.
If not lounges for smoking, perhaps cafes for eating? Legal cannabis foods and beverages will arrive sometime in 2019. On-site consumption would particularly fit the coffee culture some retailers are targeting.
Like vineyards or brew-pubs
Then there are small-scale growers. Will Ontario let them sell their own products on-site, as vineyards and brew-pubs do? That could attract tourists and support small businesses.