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Licensing fails to consider population distribution, could leave Ottawa empty-handed

On Jan. 11 Ontario announced the winners of the pot licence lottery, with the majority of licences going to individuals rather than corporations. But critics have pointed out these individuals may have a harder time setting up shop in time for the April 1 deadline.

With only 25 licences being granted in Ontario before April 1, licenses had been split by region. Five licences have been allocated to Eastern Ontario, the winners being, Daniel Telio, Brandon Long, Patterson and Lavoie, Pure Alpha Holdings and Karan Someshwar. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the shop locations will be announced in January, but winners can apply for a shop licence in any participating city with a population of more than 50,000. This means that all five winners could set up shop in Ottawa, or, we could wind up with none.

Licensing should have been based at least on population distribution. Dividing the licences based on region was a start, but what happens if all five winners decide to set up shop in Kingston? I’m not commuting three hours to get that mediocre OCS kush. Licences should have been granted on a conditional basis, with specific subregions being assured at least one shop.

But on the other hand, some have raised concerns that all five will go to the major metropolitan areas of Ottawa or Kingston. The winners may move to major markets, leaving small towns in the dust. Or, some may take advantage of a lack of access and run a monopoly in smaller regions. If there’s no pricing standard, what’s to say they won’t jack up prices and take advantage of marketable convenience? Think of the rural Ontarians, who are so often left behind by the provincial government.

Additionally, licences should have been granted to established brick-and-mortar stores, that have pre-existing relationships with the community.

Many consumers are waiting for private cannabis stores to open. Either they’re wary of mouldy weed, giving OCS their credit card information, or just prefer the experience of walking into a physical store. By failing to launch brick and mortar stores, the Ontario government is holding back the industry’s full potential. The repercussions of launching the cannabis industry this way have yet to be seen.