More than a full year after pot was officially legalized for recreational use in Canada, only 24 licensed stores exist across the province of Ontario.
That's 24 stores to Alberta's 324, only five of them in Toronto. By contrast, the City of Calgary boasts 72 alone.
Disgruntled growers, entrepreneurs and boards of commerce alike say it's all thanks to how Doug Ford's PC government chose to award retail cannabis licenses — by lottery, as opposed to merit — and they're once again sounding the alarm in hopes of opening up the market.
"Our ability to continue to invest and sustain the jobs that we have created is being severely challenged by the province's current retail cannabis policy framework," reads a letter to Ford from the Cannabis Council of Canada, a trade organization made up of the country's largest marijuana producers, including Hexo, Aphria and Canopy.
"Premier Ford, Ontarians and their families employed in the cannabis sector need your support to create retail points of sale for the products they make."
The Cannabis Council is preemptively blaming lower-than-expected Q3 revenue numbers on a lack of places to sell their products, at least in part.
Ironically, the Ford government argued when rolling out its lottery system back in 2018 that it was necessary to pace licensing due to a lack of supply.
Ontario home to 110 of 223 Licensed Cannabis Producers (LPs). Retail stores per capita— Amanda Pfeffer - CBC (@onthebeat1) November 13, 2019
Ontario stores: 24
Alberta stores: 323 (72 in Calgary alone) graph via @thecannalysts @GoBlueCdn #onpoli #ottnews pic.twitter.com/zIHhhfQtEm
Only 25 legal weed retailers were granted permission to open on April 1, 2018. Another 42 licenses were recently issued across the province, but a serious overabundance of inventory still remains in Ontario, where more than half of Canada's 243 licensed producers are located.
"We know [provincial government officials] are committed to ensuring Ontario is open for business — one way to do that is for the province to expedite lifting the cap on cannabis retail licenses," wrote the Cannabis Council in a Twitter thread on Thursday.
That said, "LPs have no ability to move the supply they have, aren't able to scale up and hire more Ontarians, and it hurts the goals of legalization."
"We are ready to assist the government any way we can to speed up the lifting of cannabis retail licenses," concluded the trade organization's thread. "We have the supply, we have committed Ontarians working hard to build this sector for the long term."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO