Toronto has more than 400 legal cannabis stores, but an industry that once had a “green rush” is now in the midst of chronic problems.
“Right now it’s just being run and decisions being made without involving retailers and without really making decisions in line with us, which I think is a huge failure in the market right now,” said Vivianne Wilson, Founder of GreenPort Cannabis on College St. in Toronto’s Little Italy.
Wilson says there should be a third party to regulate retailers and producers and advocate for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which regulates retail licensing, and the Ontario Cannabis Store, the sole legal wholesale supplier to retailers.
The federal government is reviewing the Cannabis Act, which outlined the legalization of marijuana in Canada. It also downloaded a lot of regulations regarding supply and consumption to the provinces.
In Ontario, it is the AGCO that oversees the distribution of licenses. In the beginning, a lottery system limited the number of retailers, but store owners and managers tell CTV News Toronto there is now no protection against opening multiple stores in the same area as long as they stay more than 250 yards from a school.
“We knew there would be oversaturation,” Wilson said, and that was made clear to the AGCO.
Now there are fears that many of the stores that are open will close, with about a third of cannabis sales remaining on the illicit market, Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Thursday announcing the review of the legislation.
A lawyer who has represented legal shopkeepers in pottery shops says she has received several calls from shopkeepers in Toronto who are being undermined by the black market.
“There are people who have entered the legal market in good faith and got the licenses to become retailers and yet they sometimes find themselves next to an illegal pot shop, doing better business than they do and often probably selling better products,” Kendra Stanyon said. .
A major problem, the lawyer says, is what she called a “stranglehold” on available products, such as edible cannabis, where smaller producers who wanted to be part of the legal market have been left out.
According to a summary document, the review of the Cannabis Act will focus “on aspects of the framework within federal jurisdiction.”
That won’t help many in the company, Wilson said.
“This review of the cannabis law at the federal level will not change what they are doing at the provincial level, so unfortunately we will continue to close stores,” she suspected.