Cannabis retail shops began opening in the Canadian province of Ontario on Monday, although fewer than half of the shops licensed by the government were ready to start operating on the first day of sales. According to the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission, 10 retail stores have been given the approval to open on April 1. Until Monday, legal cannabis sales in Ontario were only available online through a government-run e-commerce store.
Three retail cannabis outlets were authorized to open in Ottawa, two in Kingston, and one each in Toronto, Brampton, Burlington, London, and St. Catharines. Government officials had hoped to have 25 stores open on Monday, but many are still navigating the approval process. Regulators set an initial cap of only 25 retail licenses because of a shortage of cannabis from licensed producers that is stifling the growth of the industry legalized in Canada late last year.
Hunny Gawri, the owner of the Hunny Pot Cannabis Co. in Toronto, told reporters that he got little sleep Sunday night in the rush to get the store stocked and ready to open on Monday morning.
“We have a full house in here,” Gawri said. “It’s everything we could have asked for.”
Despite product shortages facing some retailers in Canada, Gawri said that he received everything that he ordered. But he said “it’s hard to say” if he might sell out of some items.
“It really comes down to how many people come through … we are hoping we have enough supply before the next delivery,” Gawri said.
Customer Stephanie Shamoon arrived at the Hunny Pot at 10 p.m. Sunday night and was the second in line for the opening of the store, where she said it was much easier to shop than online.
“You can come in right away, pick up what you want… you can smell it,” she said.
David Nguyen, the owner of RELM Cannabis Co. in Burlington, was excited to have one of few stores opening on Monday.
“We’re all here to make history,” he said. “We have great educators to teach about products and we also have security to ensure that they’re checking IDs.”
Gord Nichols lined up outside the store at 5:30 in the morning.
“I just wanted to wait and see what the excitement is about,” he said. “It’s the end of prohibition.”
Nichols added that he hoped that legalization would help lessen the stigma surrounding cannabis.
“It’s going to be different to go and buy it and relax at home and not be afraid,” he said.
Art Jackes, another early arrival to line up at RELM Cannabis, said the experience at the store was good but the products were too expensive.
“The government’s not going to have any chance of dealing with the black market if they don’t lower the cost,” he said.
Peter Aceto, the CEO of CannTrust Holdings, Inc., told Bloomberg that the opening of retailers in Ontario is “a very significant development” for the industry.
“I think it’s a very important part of getting us out of the black market and I definitely do think it’ll have an impact on demand,” Aceto said.