One Niagara applicant has apparently jumped the first hurdle in becoming a legal cannabis retailer.
Last Friday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) drew 25 applicants in a lottery to permit the first wave of store operators to sell marijuana from retail outlets in the province.
Of the seven successful applicants in the west region, five are listed as individuals’ names, one is a numbered Ontario corporation and the last is The Niagara Herbalist ó whose location and owner is not known.
The AGCO is not providing information about applicants, but according to Olivia Brown from Professional Cannabis Consulting, it is believed that four applicants from Hamilton were chosen in the lottery to operate in the west region.
“A lot of the corporations don’t want to identify themselves right now, for whatever reason,” said Brown, a Hamilton-based cannabis expert.
The companies and individuals have until Friday to take action on their applications for a retail operator licence and will also need to include the address of a proposed store.
The province was divided into five regions for the lottery: the GTA, east, west, north and Toronto. There were 17,320 expressions of interest submitted, but after a review of these applications by KPMG which was hired by the province to act as a “fairness monitor” in the process, 415 were disqualified for rules violations.
The remaining 16,905 applicants submitted 59,069 entries in the lottery across all regions, as each applicant was allowed to enter once in each region.
In the west region, there were 12,294 entries.
There will be a 15-day period for the public and municipal officials to comment on requests for authorization, which is when an application becomes public, said an AGCO spokesperson in an email.
Successful applicants are required to submit a $6,000 initiation fee and $50,000 letter of credit.
Local governments have until Jan. 22 to opt in or out of allowing a cannabis storefront in their communities.
As of Monday, no Niagara municipalities had approved motions allowing retail cannabis stores. St. Catharines deliberated on the issue Monday night and Niagara Falls is set to do so on Tuesday. A Welland council committee’s recommendation that the city allow retail pot sales was due to be considered Tuesday.
Towns and cities with populations of 50,000 or more are the only ones eligible in the first round of approvals.
Individuals or entities that were selected in the lottery were only required at first to indicate the region in which they wished to operate a store, not a specific location, said the AGCO.
Applicants also can choose to wait until Jan. 22.
The province plans to have stores operating by April 1.