Cannabis Retail Regulation Guide

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A guide to the laws, regulations, eligibility requirements and licensing and application process for recreational cannabis retail stores in Ontario.

We will publish new chapters to this guide as information becomes available. We will also send an email alert to subscribers when new chapters have been added.

This guide is provided as a courtesy to potential applicants of retail cannabis licenses and authorizations.  Every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, however, applicants should always consult the relevant legislation, regulations, and standards before proceeding.

 

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Cannabis Retail Regulation in Ontario

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Overview of Cannabis Legislation in Ontario

This chapter provides a summary of your cannabis retail requirements under the relevant three pieces of legislation, being the Cannabis Act (federal) the Cannabis Control Act and the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations. This is meant to be a guide it is not a complete list of all rules and is not legal advice.

General

To open a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, there are two licences and an authorization that are required from the AGCO. These are:

  • Retail Operator Licence
  • Retail Store Authorization
  • Cannabis Retail Manager Licence

The holders of Retail Operator Licences are called “licensed retail operators”.  To get this licence, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

Note: The Government of Ontario has indicated that, due to a shortage of legal cannabis supply from federally licensed producers, it has changed the approach to how private retail stores will be allocated.  The government will allow private cannabis retail stores to open in phases and has provide authority for the AGCO to license up to 25 stores in the initial phase. A lottery system was implemented to determine who would be able to apply for one of the 25 initial stores. Read details about this lottery.

References to “stores” or “retail stores” in this document refers to stores that sell or intend to sell recreational cannabis.  A store that has a Retail Store Authorization is called an “authorized store”.

Individuals who have a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence are called “licensed retail managers”.  Every retail store must have a licensed retail manager.  The only exception is if the licensed retail operator is a sole proprietor or is in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the licensed operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store – in which case a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence is not required.

You may not sell cannabis unless you are licensed and authorized by the AGCO, and you have a supply purchase contract with the Ontario Cannabis Retail Store (OCS).  You may only sell cannabis obtained through the OCS. You may not sell cannabis subject to a Health Canada/Licensed Producer recall.

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Retail Operator Licence

To be eligible to open a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must have a Retail Operator Licence.

Note: The Government of Ontario has indicated that, due to a shortage of legal cannabis supply from federally licensed producers, it has changed the approach to how private retail stores will be allocated.  The government will allow private cannabis retail stores to open in phases and has provide authority for the AGCO to license up to 25 stores in the initial phase. A lottery system was implemented to determine who would be able to apply for one of the 25 initial stores. Read details about this lottery.

You are not eligible for a Retail Operator Licence if:

  • you are under 19 years of age. This includes directors, officers and shareholders of corporations.
  • you have been convicted or charged with certain offences:
    • any offence under the Cannabis Licence Act
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have, or previously had, certain roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada):
    • you are, or have been a member of the criminal organization
    • you are, or have been involved in the criminal organization
    • you contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization.
  • you are carrying on activities that are not in compliance with certain laws.
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have made a false statement or provided false information in your application.
  • you are in default of filing a tax return under a tax statute administered and enforced by the government of Ontario, or have any outstanding amounts owing and past due of tax, penalty or interest under those laws and have not made payment arrangements;
  • you have a business number with the Canada Revenue Agency and have not filed a tax return under certain Federal or provincial legislation; 
  • the application will be made by a corporation and more than 9.9 percent of the corporation is owned or controlled, either directly or indirectly, by a licensed producer or their affiliate .
  • you will not be financially responsible in operating your cannabis business.
  • you will not operate your cannabis retail business in compliance with the law, or with integrity, honesty or in the public interest.
  • you will not have sufficient control over the cannabis retail business.

Generally, you must wait two years to apply again for a Retail Operator Licence if you:

  • applied for a new licence or renewal licence in the past but were refused, or
  • you had a Retail Operator Licence in the past but the licence was revoked.

You may have conditions put on your Retail Operator Licence to address any specific risks or concerns.  There are also conditions in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 that apply to all Retail Operator Licences.

You cannot transfer your Retail Operator Licence to another person or business.

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Retail Store Authorization

To open a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must have a Retail Store Authorization. 

There are some places where you cannot open a cannabis retail store. More information about that is in the next section on Retail Store Location.

Generally, you must wait two years to apply again for a Retail Store Authorization if you:

  • applied for a new Retail Store Authorization or renewal of a Retail Store Authorization in the past but were refused, or
  • you had a Retail Store Authorization in the past but the authorization was revoked.

You are not eligible for a Retail Store Authorization for a store if:

  • you do not have a Retail Operator Licence now, or would not have a Retail Operator Licence at the time when the Retail Store Authorization would be issued.
  • you have a Retail Operator Licence that has conditions that do not allow you to apply for or receive a Retail Store Authorization for that store.
  • the holder of the Retail Operator Licence,  any person interested in the operator, or if the operator is a corporation including any director, officer or shareholder of the corporation,  has been convicted of or charged with certain offences:
    • any offence under the Cannabis Licence Act
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Licence Act
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act and Cannabis Act
  • you have, or previously had, certain roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada):
    • you are, or have been a member of the criminal organization
    • you are, or have been involved in the criminal organization
    • you contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization.
  • you are carrying on activities that are not in compliance with certain with certain laws.
    • Certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you hire or plan to hire someone who does not have a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence, but should have that Licence because of the work they do
  • it is not in the public interest, based on the needs and wishes of the people who live in the municipality where the proposed store would be located.
    • After you apply for a Retail Store Authorization, the Registrar will inform local residents and the municipality about the application by having a notice posted at the proposed store and on the AGCO’s website.
    • The municipality or local residents submit written submissions to the Registrar about whether the proposed store is in the public interest, as set out in regulation. The submissions must be sent within 15 calendar days after the notice is posted.
    • Relevant submissions are limited to the following matters of public interest:
      • protecting public health & safety;
      • protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis;
      • preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.
  • the store, equipment and facilities do not comply with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, regulations, the Registrar’s Standards or requirements
  • you do not have sufficient control over the store, equipment and facilities
  • you have made a false statement or provided false information in your application

If you hold a licence under the Cannabis Act (Canada) to produce cannabis for commercial purposes you or your affiliates are not currently eligible for a retail store authorization.

Under the temporary allocation system, no licences will be issued to operators who wish to operate a store on reserve land initially. This will allow for more time for the province to engage and have discussions with First Nations on what on-reserve approaches work best.

You may have conditions put on your Retail Store Authorization to address any specific risks or concerns.  There are also conditions in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and regulation that apply to all Retail Store Authorizations.

You cannot transfer your Retail Store Authorization to another person or business.

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Retail Manager Licence

Every cannabis retail store must have a licensed retail manager. People who perform certain duties within the cannabis retail store must get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence.  People who: 

  • supervise, manage or hire employees of the store
  • manage the sale of cannabis
  • manage compliance issues relating to the sale of cannabis
  • buy cannabis for the store
  • enter into contracts for the store. 

The only people that can perform the duties listed above are people with a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence or a Retail Operator Licence. 

You are not eligible for a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence if: 

  • you are under 19 years of age 
  • as a licensed retail manager, you will not act in compliance with the law, or with integrity, honesty or in the public interest
  • you have been convicted or charged with certain offences: 
    • any offence under the Cannabis Licence Act 
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have, or previously had, certain roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada): 
    • you are, or have been a member of the criminal organization
    • you are, or have been involved in the criminal organization
    • you contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization. 
  • you are carrying on activities that are not in compliance with certain laws. 
    • certain offences under the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) and Cannabis Act (CA)
  • you have made a false statement or provided false information in your application

Generally,  you must wait 2 years to apply again for a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence if you:

  • applied for a new Cannabis Retail Manager Licence or renewal Cannabis Retail Manager Licence in the past but were refused, or
  • you had a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence in the past but the licence was revoked.

You may have conditions put on your Cannabis Retail Manager Licence to address any specific risks or concerns. There are also conditions in the Cannabis Licence Act that apply to all Cannabis Retail Manager Licences. 

You cannot transfer your Cannabis Retail Manager Licence to another individual. 

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Retail Store Location

There are some places where you cannot open a cannabis retail store.  More information about those rules is provided below. 

Municipalities:    

Ontario municipalities had a one-time option to opt out of having cannabis retail stores in their communities. They had until January 22, 2019 to notify the AGCO that their council had taken a resolution to opt out of having cannabis retail stores. Municipalities that choose to opt out can opt back in at any time—but once they have opted in, they may not reverse their decision. 

Therefore, cannabis retail stores cannot be located in a municipality that has passed a resolution prohibiting cannabis retail stores from being located in the municipality.  

  • If a municipality decided not to allow cannabis retail stores, they must have informed the AGCO about their decision by January 22, 2019.  
  • The AGCO has a list of municipalities that have decided not to allow cannabis retail stores on its website.  
  • If you applied for a Retail Store Authorization before January 22, 2019, and the municipality where you want to open the store notified the AGCO it will not allow cannabis retail stores, the AGCO will not issue you a Retail Store Authorization for that store, even if you meet all other eligibility requirements.  

In addition, there are allocation rules that apply to the first 25 stores the AGCO is able to authorize, which will distribute these 25 stores among the following five regions in Ontario, as follows:

  • six (6) stores in the Greater Toronto Area Region (which includes the following census divisions: Durham, York, Peel, and Halton)
  • five (5) in the Toronto Region which means the Toronto census divisions
  • seven (7) in the West Region (which includes the following census divisions: Dufferin, Wellington, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk; Brant, Waterloo, Perth, Oxford, Elgin, Chatham-Kent, Essex, Lambton, Middlesex, Huron, Bruce, Grey, Manitoulin).
  • five (5) in the East Region (which includes the following census divisions: Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Prescott and Russell, Ottawa, Leeds and Grenville, Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Hastings, Prince Edward, Northumberland, Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Simcoe, Muskoka, Haliburton, Renfrew).
  • two (2) in the North Region (which includes the following census divisions: Nipissing, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Greater Sudbury, Timiskaming, Cochrane, Algoma, Thunder Bay, Rainy River, Kenora).

The first 25 cannabis retail stores may only be located in a municipality that has a minimum population of 50,000 people.

First Nations Reserve: 

Under the temporary allocation system, no licences will be issued to operators who wish to operate a store on reserve land initially. This will allow for more time for the province to engage and have discussions with First Nations on what on-reserve approaches work best.

Near Schools:  

A cannabis retail store cannot be located near a school or private school, as defined in the Education Act, if the proposed retail store is less than 150 metres away from the property line of the school or private school. This will be determined as follows:  

  • when the school or private school is the primary or only occupant of a building, 150 metres shall be measured from the property line of the property on which the school or private school is located.  
  • When the school or private school is not the primary or only occupant of a building, 150 meters shall be measured from the boundary of any space occupied by the school or private school within the building. 

(The above rules do not apply if the private school is located on a reserve or if the private school only offers classes through the Internet.)

Please refer to the Education Act for further details and definitions on what is considered a school or private school.

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Retail Store Requirements

There must be separation between your cannabis business and other businesses. If an existing retail space is renovated to create two or more spaces, the space that is intended to be a cannabis retail store must adhere to the listed criteria below and all the eligibility requirements set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and regulation. 

The retail space where you will sell cannabis: 

  • must be enclosed by walls separating it from any other commercial establishment or activity
  • does not include an outdoor area
  • cannot be entered from or passed through in order to access any other commercial establishment or activity, other than a common area of an enclosed shopping mall.

In addition, the area where cannabis will be received or stored cannot be accessible by any other business or by the public. This does not mean that an establishment is required to have a separate door for product receipt. For example, if a premises has only one door, product could be received through this door outside of business hours, or access to the door could be restricted by security personnel at the time of product delivery.

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Background Checks

As part of its review of your application for a new licence or authorization, or renewal licence or authorization, the AGCO may do background checks and investigations on applicants, as needed. The AGCO may look at the character, financial history and competence of persons applying for a licence or authorization.  You may be required to pay some of the costs of the background checks or investigations.

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Training

In Ontario, anyone who works in a cannabis retail store must successfully complete an AGCO Board approved cannabis retail employee training program before their first day of work to support the safe sale and consumption of cannabis. This includes:

  • holders of a Retail Store Authorization
  • holders of a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence
  • employees of a cannabis retail store
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Operating a Store

There are rules you must follow when operating your store. 

You must: 

  • begin selling cannabis at your authorized store within one year of getting your Retail Store Authorization, and continue to sell cannabis
  • open only during permissible hours: between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on any day
  • display the official cannabis retail seal. You must post the seal in a place where people can easily see it from outside the entrance to the store. The seal must be at least 17 centimetres wide and 20 centimetres long. You can chose to post the French version of the seal, or the English version, or both. 
  • remove the seal as soon as possible if your Retail Store Authorization is revoked or not renewed
  • post your Retail Store Authorization in the store in a place where people can easily see it
  • only sell cannabis that has been made by someone who is authorized under the Cannabis Act (Canada) to make cannabis for commercial purposes
  • keep records of specified information and activities
  • have measures in place to reduce the risk that your cannabis will be redirected to the illegal market or illegal activities
  • only sell things you are allowed to sell. These are: 
    • cannabis that you bought from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation.  The cannabis must in the same packaging you bought it in.  You must buy all of the cannabis you will sell in your store from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. 
    • cannabis accessories that are used in the consumption of cannabis, such as a bongs, rolling papers, or vaporizers. 
    • shopping bags. 
  • record all sales
  • make information about the responsible use of cannabis available to patrons
  • ensure that all licensed managers and other employees working in your store successfully complete the required Board approved training program prior to their first day of work at the store. 
  • request identification of anyone who looks under 25 years old and be satisfied the person is at least 19 years of age prior to allowing them to enter the store. 

You must not: 

  • sell cannabis or cannabis accessories to anyone who is under 19 years old
  • allow anyone who looks under 25 years old to enter the store, unless you first request identification and are satisfied the person is at least 19 years of age
  • sell cannabis to anyone who is intoxicated or looks intoxicated
  • sell more than 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent amount of another kind) to a person in a single visit
  • hire anyone who is under 19 years of age. 

All sales, including ordering and payment, must happen in the store.  

You cannot sell cannabis or cannabis accessories from a display that allows self-service, or from a vending machine. 

You must display your cannabis and accessories in a way that they cannot be seen by a young person, even from outside the store.

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Renewing your Licence or Authorization

You must apply to renew your licence or authorization before the current term expires. 

Your licence or authorization will be renewed if you have met the application requirements and paid the required fee. However it will not be renewed if: 

  • you have failed to comply with the legislation or regulations
  • you no longer meet the eligibility requirements for the licence or authorization. 

If your Retail Store Authorization is not renewed, you must follow any rules set by the Registrar regarding the disposal of cannabis that has not been sold or distributed. 

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Suspension or Revocation of Licences & Authorizations

All owners/operators of cannabis retail stores along with store managers are subject to the provincial Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards.

If you do not comply with legislation and regulations or are no longer eligible for your licence or authorization, your licence or authorization may be suspended or revoked.  You will be advised of the licence or authorization being suspended or revoked and can request a hearing before the Licence Appeal Tribunal.

In some cases, depending on the reasons, the licence or authorization may be suspended or revoked immediately.

If your Retail Store Authorization is suspended, you must post a sign about the suspension in a place where people can easily see it from outside the store.

If your Retail Store Authorization is revoked or suspended, you must comply with any rules set by the Registrar regarding the disposal of cannabis that has not been sold or distributed.

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Compliance Officials

AGCO compliance officials may visit the retail store location to confirm compliance with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and regulations. You must allow the inspection, and you must not interfere with the compliance official, refuse to answer questions related to the inspection, or provide false information.  

 When doing an inspection, an AGCO compliance official may: 

  • ask you for and look at certain records that are relevant to the inspection
  • take certain records away from the store to review, examine, test or copy. In this case, the compliance official will give you a receipt confirming which records have been taken. 
    • After the compliance official has taken the records, you can request that the records be made available to you. 
    • The records will be returned to you in a reasonable time, unless the records cannot be returned because of the testing done. 
  • take photographs or other recordings
  • ask about financial transactions, records or other matters relevant to the inspection. 

If an compliance official asks you for a record, you must provide it.  You must also must help the official understand the record or provide it in a readable form.

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Inducements

If you have a Retail Operator Licence, a Retail Store Authorization and/or a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence, no one is allowed to offer you, or your employees, a material inducement or benefit. 

You are not allowed to give or offer to give away cannabis or cannabis accessories to someone without charge.  You cannot offer things or services to induce a person to purchase cannabis. 

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Advertising and Promotion

Cannabis retail store operators are subject to the federal Cannabis Act and its regulations which outline permissible and prohibited advertising and promotional activities. Please refer to the Cannabis Act for more information. 

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Objectives of Cannabis Legislation and Regulations

The federal government of Canada has legalized recreational cannabis in Canada. The Cannabis Act is the legal and regulatory framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of recreational cannabis in Canada and was put in place by the federal government with the purpose of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth, keeping profits out of the pockets of criminals and protecting public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis.  

Under the Cannabis Act, each province and territory is responsible for setting its own rules for how cannabis can be sold, where stores can be located, and how stores must be operated. Provinces and territories may also set additional restrictions they feel are necessary. As a result, the Government of Ontario has worked to implement a safe, legal system for cannabis retail that is intended to protect youth, protect roads and combat the illegal market for cannabis.  

Under Ontario’s regulatory model, the AGCO has been given the responsibility of licensing eligible retail store operators, authorizing cannabis retail stores and regulating the sale of cannabis. The AGCO’s focus is on the safe, responsible and lawful sale of cannabis, consistent with the legislation enacted by the provincial government. Its regulatory objectives are to ensure that the retail sale of cannabis in Ontario is carried out with honesty, integrity and in the public interest as set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, its regulations and the AGCO Registrar’s Standards.  

As legalization of cannabis is new to Ontario, the AGCO’s regulatory approach may evolve as the industry evolves. 

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Ontario's Cannabis Retail Regulation Landscape

Legal Cannabis Supply Chain

1_0.pngHealth Canada regulates the cultivation and processing of cannabis and licenses producers, called “Licensed Producers”.

 

2_0.pngLicensed Producers are the only legal growers/producers of cannabis products in Ontario.

 

3_0.pngThe Ontario Cannabis Store is a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario and is the only legal supplier (wholesaler) of cannabis for private retail stores in Ontario. The OCS operates the only legal online store for recreational cannabis sales in Ontario. The AGCO does not regulate the OCS.

 

The Licences and Authorizations you need from the AGCO

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Retail Operator Licence 

To be able to legally open a retail store to sell recreational cannabis, you must get a Retail Operator Licence. To get this licence, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations.
A Retail Operator Licence allows you to operate one or more retail stores in Ontario. However, you must have a separate Retail Store Authorization for every store you wish to operate. 

Under the temporary allocation system, no licences will be issued to operators who wish to operate a store on reserve land initially. This will allow for more time for the province to engage and have discussions with First Nations on what on-reserve approaches work best. Indigenous people will be eligible to apply for the lottery, if the proposed outlet is located off reserve in an otherwise permissible municipality.

Retail Store Authorization  

You must have a Retail Store Authorization for each one of your stores because the Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations require that each store meet certain requirements. Requirements relate to such matters as the store layout and location. The regulations also give residents of the municipality in which the proposed store would be located the opportunity to provide their input. 

Cannabis Retail Manager Licence   

In order to ensure the responsible sale of cannabis, there must be at least one licensed manager for each authorized store location. The Cannabis Licence Act and its regulations set out eligibility criteria for the person who will have management responsibilities in authorized stores. This includes having responsibility for the cannabis inventory, for hiring and managing employees, and for ensuring the store operates with honesty and integrity at all times.
If you are a sole proprietor, or in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the licensed operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store, you do not need to get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence for your store.

 

The Local Community

Municipalities

Ontario municipalities have a one-time option to opt out of having cannabis retail stores in their communities. Municipalities have until January 22, 2019 to inform the AGCO if they wish to opt out. Municipalities that choose to opt out can opt back in at any time—but once they are in, they may no longer opt out. 
 

Residents

Residents in the municipality of a proposed cannabis store location have an opportunity to share their views with the AGCO before a retail store is authorized. The Registrar may refuse to authorize the store if it is in the public interest to do so. 
The only areas of public interest the Registrar can consider, as defined by the regulations, are related to public health and safety, protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis, and preventing illegal activities in relation to cannabis. 

Note: this page is also available as a pdf infographic.

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Cannabis Licence Act, 2018

The full text of the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 can be viewed on the government of Ontario’s website.

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Ontario Regulation 468/18 made under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018

The Full Text of Ontario Regulation 468/18 made under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 can be viewed on the Ontario government website.

 

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Registrar's Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores

(Last Update: March, 2019)

Introduction

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 (CLA) and Regulation 468/18 provide the Registrar with authority to establish standards and requirements in the following areas:

  • store premises, equipment and facilities, including surveillance and security
  • the prevention of unlawful activities
  • advertising and promotional activities
  • training related to the responsible use and sale of cannabis
  • the protection of assets
  • record-keeping and measures to maintain confidentiality and security of records
  • compliance with the federal cannabis tracking system.

These Standards are outlined in the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores. Licensees are required to comply with the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores, as well as all applicable laws and regulations, including the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 (CCA), the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 (CLA), and Ontario Regulation 468/18.

The objective of a standards-based regulatory model is to shift the focus from requiring licensees to comply with a specific set of rules or processes, toward the broader regulatory outcome or objectives they are expected to achieve. Since there may be many ways for a licensee to meet the Standards, licensees have the flexibility to determine what works best for their business, thereby strengthening regulatory outcomes without needlessly burdening regulated entities.

Holders of a Retail Operator Licence are responsible for meeting all Standards. Where not specified otherwise, Standards also apply to holders of a Retail Manager Licence.

The Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores will be reviewed and revised on a regular basis to ensure that they are effective in mitigating risks as the cannabis retail sector matures.

1.0 General Standards

1.1 Licensees must ensure that all employees act in accordance with the law and demonstrate honesty and integrity.

Requirements - At a minimum:

  1. licensees must obtain criminal background checks from employees as part of the hiring process
  2. licensees must ensure that all employees understand their obligations with respect to applicable laws, regulations, standards, and policies
  3. licensees must ensure that all employees have completed any required training, including Board-approved training, prior to their first scheduled shift.

1.2 Licensed Retail Operators must exercise oversight of their retail operations. 

1.3 Licensed Retail Operators (if also performing the duties of a Retail Manager) or licensed Retail Managers may only be accountable for one authorized store.

1.4 A copy of the Retail Manager Licence must be kept at the store, and made available to AGCO inspectors or investigators upon request.

1.5 The retail store’s operating name must be the same as the name set out on the retail store authorization.

1.6 Licensees must notify the Registrar in accordance with the Notification Requirements. [Amended: March, 2019]

1.7 A Licensed Retail Operator must submit the following changes to the Registrar within a reasonable time:

  1. if a person ceases to be a director or officer of a Licensed Retail Operator that is a corporation or a corporation that effectively controls the business
  2. if a person ceases to be a partner of a partnership in which the Licensed Retail Operator is also a partner.

1.8 A Licensed Retail Operator must submit, within a reasonable time, the following changes to the Registrar for approval:

  1. a person becomes a director or officer of a Licensed Retail Operator that is a corporation or a corporation that effectively controls the business
  2. a person becomes a partner of a partnership in which the Licensed Retail Operator is also a partner
  3. a person or partnership acquires a beneficial interest in the Licensed Retail Operator’s business, including holding or controlling shares of a holder that is a corporation or in a corporation that effectively controls the business
  4. a person or a partnership other than the Licensed Retail Operator becomes entitled to any of the profits from the sale of cannabis or cannabis accessories, or liable for any obligations incurred from the sale of cannabis or cannabis accessories, at any cannabis retail store for which the Licensed Retail Operator holds a retail store authorization.

2.0 Physical Store Requirements

2.1 A secure, high-resolution surveillance system must be in place at all times.

Requirements - At a minimum:

  1. cameras and lighting must be positioned to clearly capture 24 hour coverage of the interior of the premises and immediately outside the premises, including the:
    1. Entrances and exits, including where IDs are checked
    2. Point of sale area(s)
    3. Receiving area(s)
    4. Sales floor area(s)
    5. Cannabis storage area(s).
  2. video recordings must be made and retained for a minimum of 30 days and be made available to the AGCO upon request
  3. the Licensee must ensure that the surveillance system is functioning properly at all times.

2.2  All cannabis must be stored securely at all times and be accessible only by staff from receipt of product to point of sale, destruction, or return to the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) or the Licensed Producer.

2.3  Any cannabis that is outdated, recalled, damaged, deteriorated, misbranded, adulterated, returned, or otherwise ineligible to be sold must be kept separate from other cannabis.

2.4  All points of access to the premises must be secure and protected against unauthorized access.

2.5  Licensees must ensure that cannabis and accessories are not visible from the exterior of the premises.

2.6  Licensees may use sensory display containers to allow patrons to see and smell cannabis.  Sensory display containers must be locked and tamper-proof to prevent patrons from touching the cannabis, and must not be able to be removed from the premises.

2.7  The cannabis used in the sensory display containers must be purchased by the Licensed Retail Operator from the retail store’s inventory through the point-of-sale system.

3.0 Destruction of Cannabis

3.1 Cannabis that is ineligible to be sold and ineligible for return to the OCRC must be destroyed or rendered unusable through a method that :

  1. complies with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations, including environmental protection legislation applicable to the location where it is being destroyed
  2. does not result in any individual being exposed to cannabis smoke or cannabis vapour.

3.2 If carried out by the Licensee, the entire cannabis destruction process must be captured on the premises’ surveillance system, and must be overseen by a Licensed Manager or Licensed Retail Operator.

3.3 Destruction of cannabis that is ineligible for sale must be performed on a monthly basis, at a minimum.

4.0 Secure Transportation

4.1 In the event of a product recall, Licensees must work with the OCRC to ensure that all unsold product subject to the recall is transported securely back to the OCRC, and must ensure that records are kept of all product returned. [AMENDED March 2019]

4.2 If a Licensed Retail Operator holds more than one Retail Store Authorization, cannabis may be transferred between their retail stores.  Licensees must ensure that the transportation of cannabis is secure, and must maintain records of all movements of cannabis between stores. At each store, the Licensed Retail Manager or Licensed Retail Operator must supervise and document the transfer process.

5.0 Minors and Prohibited Individuals

5.1 Licensees must take reasonable measures to ensure that patrons are not purchasing cannabis or cannabis accessories on behalf of individuals under the age of 19.

6.0 Advertising and Promotions

6.1 Licensees must have signage clearly identifying their business on the exterior of the authorized store.

6.2 Advertising may not:

  1. appeal to or target persons under 19 years of age
  2. promote cannabis or cannabis accessories in a way that is false, misleading, or deceptive
  3. suggest or imply, directly, indirectly, or by use of endorsements of testimonials, that consumption of cannabis is associated with success, enjoyment of an activity, fulfillment of a goal, or the resolution of a problem
  4. be associated with medicine, health, or pharmaceuticals
  5. depict or suggest the illegal sale of cannabis
  6. associate consumption of cannabis with driving a motorized vehicle, or with any activity that requires care and skill or has elements of danger [AMENDED March 2019]

6.3 Licensees may not provide cannabis or cannabis accessories free of charge or provide any other thing or benefit, as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory. [AMENDED March 2019]

6.4 Licensees may not accept or request material inducements from Licensed Producers, their representatives, or suppliers of cannabis accessories.

7.0 Responsible Use

7.1 ​Licensees must ensure that information related to the responsible use of cannabis is made available to patrons.

Requirements - At a minimum:

  1. licensees must make the Health Canada Consumer Information – Cannabis document available to patrons

  2. any other information prescribed by the Registrar.

8.0 Record Keeping Requirements

8.1 Licensees must ensure that the following records are maintained, retained a minimum of  three (3) years, or longer as may be required by other laws and regulations, and made available upon request by the AGCO:

  1. employee records, including names, addresses, primary job responsibilities, shift schedules, training records, CPIC records check results, and dates of employment
  2. records for all cannabis in the authorized store, including cannabis purchased directly from the OCRC and cannabis transferred from another authorized retail store operated by the Licensed Operator.  At a minimum, these records must contain information regarding:
    1. the cannabis purchased and received by the Licensee for sale in the authorized store
    2. any cannabis returned to the OCRC or Licensed Producers
    3. each sale transaction at the authorized store, traceable to the employee level
    4. any cannabis that has been destroyed.  Records of any cannabis destroyed must include, at a minimum:
      1. the name and address of the authorized retail cannabis store
      2. the time and date of the destruction
      3. the name of the individual conducting the destruction, if being carried out by the licensee, or the company, if being contracted to a third party 
      4. a certificate of destruction, if destruction is carried out by a third party
      5. the product category and SKU
      6. the amount of product
      7. the reason for the destruction of the cannabis product
      8. the method of destruction.
  3. records required to enable the licensee to participate in any national cannabis tracking system established under section 81 of the federal Cannabis Act
  4. records that may be required to support a cannabis product recall
  5. records demonstrating that the Licensee is complying with sections 7 and 8 of the Cannabis Control Act, 2017, which prohibit sales to persons under 19 years of age and persons who are or appear to be intoxicated.
  6. licensees must maintain records of the cannabis used for display purposes.  These records must account for the product after it is no longer on display.

8.2 Licensees must complete full physical inventory counts of all cannabis on a weekly basis at a minimum or upon the request of AGCO.

A log of the inventory results must be maintained and all discrepancies must be reported to AGCO as soon as possible.

8.3 Licensees must ensure that there are reasonable safeguards around data security and protection of data integrity.

8.4 Point of Sales systems must be certified by a recognized industry certification body or organization (e.g. PCI, ISO) and have logging capability for the purposes of monitoring all system access and system changes.

Line of Business: 

Cannabis Licensing and Application Process

Line of Business: 

Cannabis Retail Licensing

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is responsible for administering the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 (CLA) that, together with the regulation made under the CLA , establish the licensing and regulatory regime for most aspects relating to the retail sale of recreational cannabis in Ontario. The following information is intended to assist you in applying for a Retail Operator Licence, a Retail Store Authorization and/or a Cannabis Retail Store Manager Licence.

Line of Business: 

Things to Know Before You Begin

Processing Times

  • The AGCO has a dedicated cannabis licensing team to work with those who are selected through the Expression of Interest lottery. This will help support the government’s objective of providing a safe, legal alternative to the illegal market by having licensed operators to begin opening cannabis retail stores on April 1, 2019.
  • Applications must include all the required information.
  • Circumstances that will delay issuance of a Retail Operator Licence include:
    • Higher risk applicant eligibility factors requiring closer inspection (e.g. criminal, financial and other applicant/affiliate background considerations). For more information, please see the Cannabis Retail Licences and Authorization section of this guide
    • Complex corporate structure
    • Incomplete application submissions requiring multiple discussions with the applicant. For more information, please see the Application Process section of this guide
    • Applicant delays in responding to the AGCO when it requests clarifications or further information
  • Circumstances that will delay issuance of a Retail Store Authorization include:
    • Incomplete application submissions requiring multiple discussions with the applicant
    • Applicant delays in responding to the AGCO when it requests clarifications or further information
    • High volume of written submissions received through the public notice process
    • The store is not ready for pre-authorization inspection
    • The store does not meet pre-authorization inspection requirements.
  • Please note that the Retail Store Authorization application will not be approved if it is in a municipality that has opted out of having cannabis retail stores or in a municipality, which while permitting cannabis stores, has a population of less than 50,000 people.

Licence Holder Responsibilities

For complete details about your legal responsibilities as a licence holder, refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations online or by contacting Publications Ontario at 416-326-5300 or toll-free at 1-800-668-9938.

Municipal Requirements

Prior to applying for a Retail Store Authorization, please check with your local municipality to ensure that your premises meets municipal requirements for retail stores and that it is not a municipality that has opted out of cannabis retail sales.   

Public Notice

Once a complete Retail Store Authorization application is received by AGCO:

  1. The applicant will be notified, via iAGCO, that they have 24 hours to post a placard at the location of the proposed retail store location.  The placard must be posted for 15 calendar days and it will indicate that an application has been submitted for a cannabis retail store at that location.
  2. All cannabis Retail Store Authorization applications that are undergoing the public notice process will be searchable on the AGCO’s iAGCO portal.

After the Public Notice period has ended, the AGCO will provide the Applicant with copies of any written submissions received from local residents and from the municipality as a result of the Public Notice Process in response to the application. Authorization applicants will have five (5) calendar days to provide a written response to the Registrar related to any written submissions received from local residents and/or the municipality and the Registrar will consider the applicant’s response, if any.

  • Relevant submissions are limited to the following matters of public interest:
    • Protecting public health & safety
    • Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis
    • Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

For more information on the Public Notice process, please see the Public Notice for a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization section of this guide.

 

Fees and Payment

Licence and Authorization Fees

  1. Fee
    • You must pay the required fee when you first apply for a cannabis retail-related licence or authorization.
    • The fees for a Retail Operator Licence, for a Retail Store Authorization or for a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence are for a two-year period, after which time you will have to renew them. 
    • Fees paid are generally non-refundable, but the AGCO may consider refunds on a case-by-case basis Once an application is under review, the AGCO may in some cases charge additional investigation fees depending on the complexity of the background checks and investigations required.
  2. Renewal Fee
    • If you wish to continue operating your business or being employed as a retail manager, you will have to pay a renewal fee before your licence or authorization expires.
    • The renewal fee covers some of the ongoing costs of regulation, which includes activities such as inspection, and customer service support.
    • When you renew, you can select a two-year or four-year renewal term for any of the three licence or authorization types. There is no difference in the overall cost per year.
    • Fees paid are generally non-refundable, but the AGCO may consider refunds on a case-by-case basis.

Fee Payment

  • When using online services, all payments under $30,000 must be made by Visa, MasterCard, Interac Online, Visa Debit or MasterCard Debit.
  • Payments of $30,000 or more must be made by money wire transfer or electronic funds transfer. For more information, please contact AGCO Customer Service at 416-326-8700 or 1-800-522-2876.
  • Cheques and cash are not accepted as forms of payment when using iAGCO online services. Also, please note that the Bank of Montreal no longer offers Interac online payment service. For more information, please contact your BMO branch or the telephone number on the back of your card. For a list of participating financial Institutions, please visit Interac Online for Consumers).
  • All application fees must be received by the AGCO before an application will be processed.
  • Fees paid are generally non-refundable, but the AGCO may consider refunds on a case-by-case basis
  • Additional fees may be required for investigations.

For more information, visit the Fees and Payment section of this guide.

Important Notice

  • Each statement made in your application is subject to verification.
  • Expression of Interest Applicants selected in the Lottery who apply for a licence:
    • Must use the same legal name and applicant type identified on the Expression of Interest Application in their Retail Operator Licence Application; and,
    • Are not permitted to change their applicant type, ownership and/or corporate structure in such a way that would result in a change of control of the Expression of Interest Applicant or licensee during the Lottery Process.
  • It is a serious matter to knowingly provide false information on the forms and on any attachments. The provision of false, incomplete, or misleading information or the omission of information on the forms or in the documents submitted with your application, or the failure to notify the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario of any material changes to this information which occur after this application is filed, may also result in the refusal, suspension or revocation of your licence.
  • If you require assistance with your application, please contact AGCO Customer Service at 416-326-8700 or 1-800-522-2876

The Ontario Cannabis Store

The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporate (OCRC), operating as the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), is the exclusive wholesaler of cannabis in Ontario to authorized private retail stores. Private retailers can only purchase cannabis from the OSC.  Retail store operators will be required to enter into a wholesale supply agreement with the OCS in order to begin purchasing cannabis for resale in their authorized stores. 

Retail store operators should contact the OCS once they have been issued their Retail Operators Licence from the AGCO.  For more information, visit www.oscwholesale.ca or call 1-888-910-0627.

Cannabis Retail Licences and Authorizations

The following licences/authorizations are required for the operation of a cannabis retail store(s) in Ontario.

For information on how to apply, see the Application Process section in this guide.

Note: Persons (including individuals or corporations) may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization if they submitted an expression of interest, were selected in the lottery and received a Notification Letter from the Registrar. Please see The Expression of Interest Lottery FAQs for more information.

 

Retail Operator Licence

To operate a retail store and sell recreational cannabis, you must apply for a Retail Operator Licence. To get this licence, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were one of the 25 Applications selected in the lottery held on January 11, 2019.   You must use the same legal name and applicant type identified on the Expression of Interest Application in your Retail Operator Licence Application.  The 25 store maximum is in effect until December 13, 2019 when Ontario Regulation 468/18 is to be amended.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a Retail Operator Licence, the applicant(s) must meet the same requirements required for a Retail Store Authorization.

Additionally, a person is not eligible for Retail Operator Licence:

  • If the AGCO is not satisfied that you will exercise sufficient control, either directly or indirectly, over the cannabis retail business
  • If you are in default of filing a tax return under a tax statute administered and enforced by the government of Ontario, or have any outstanding amounts owing and past due of tax, penalty or interest under those laws and have not made payment arrangements
  • If you have a business number with the Canada Revenue Agency and have not filed a tax return under certain Federal or provincial legislation
  • If the application will be made by a corporation and more than 9.9 percent of the corporation is owned or controlled, either directly or indirectly, by a licensed producer or their affiliate.  

For full details on the eligibility requirements for a Retail Operator Licence, please to refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.  

Please note that police and background checks will be conducted on applicants, and persons interested in the applicant, as needed, to determine eligibility for the issuance of the licence.

For more information about Retail Operator Licence fees, see the Fees and Payment section of this guide.

Once approved, you will receive a Retail Operator Licence, which will contain your licence number, expiry date and any conditions on the licence.

Note:  The cannabis Retail Operator Licence is NOT a licence to produce cannabis.  For more information on becoming a licensed producer, please visit the website at Health Canada.

Retail Store Authorization

To operate a cannabis retail store, you must have a Retail Store Authorization.

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations require that each store meet certain requirements. Requirements relate to such matters as the store layout and location.

The regulations also give residents of the municipality in which the proposed store would be located the opportunity to provide their input.

Before applying for a Retail Store Authorization, you must have submitted an application for a Retail Operator Licence or hold a Retail Operator Licence issued by the AGCO. You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence or a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were selected in the lottery .

A proposed Retail Store:

  • Cannot be located near a school or private school, as defined in the Education Act, if the proposed retail store is less than 150 metres away from the property line of the school. This will be determined as follows:
    • When the school or private school is the primary or only occupant of a building, 150 meters shall be measured from the property line of the property on which the school or private school is located. 
    • When the school or private school is not the primary or only occupant of a building, 150 meters shall be measured from the boundary of any space occupied by the school or private school within the building.
      (The above rules do not apply if the private school only offers classes through the Internet. Please refer to the Education Act for further details and definitions on what is considered a school or private school.)
  • May only operate between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (Monday to Sunday)
  • Must be the only business that will operate at the proposed retail store and must only sell permitted items, that is, cannabis, cannabis accessories and shopping bags.
  • Must be located in a municipality that permits cannabis retail stores and the municipality has a population of 50,000 or more.
     

For more information, including information on allocation rules based on regions that apply to the 25 stores the AGCO is able to authorize, see the Retail Store Location section of this guide.

Please refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations for a list of full requirements.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a Retail Store Authorization, the applicant must:

  • Have been selected in the lottery and notified by the AGCO that they are eligible to apply for a Retail Operator Licence
  • Be at least 19 years of age (including all directors, officers and shareholders if the applicant is a corporation)
  • Be financially responsible
  • Conduct their business (or their duties as retail store manager) in accordance with the law, and with honesty, integrity and in the public interest
  • Have no convictions or charges under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, or certain sections of the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 and the Cannabis Act (Canada)
  • Not have, or previously had, roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada) (i.e. the applicant must not be, or have been, a member of the criminal organization; involved in the criminal organization; or contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization
  • Not have made a false statement or provided false information in your application.

In addition, an applicant is not eligible for a retail store authorization if:

  • The premises, equipment and facilities of the proposed store are not in compliance with the Cannabis Licence Act 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards
  • If the issuance of the authorization has been deemed not to be in the public interest (i.e. protecting  public health and safety, protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis, and preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis).
  • If you or your affiliates hold a licence under the Cannabis Act (Canada) to produce cannabis for commercial purposes
  • The location of your proposed store is located in a municipality that:
    • Does not permit cannabis retail stores
    • Permits cannabis retail stores and has a population of 50,000 or more.

For more information, see the Retail Store Authorization section of this guide.

For full details on the eligibility requirements for a Retail Store Authorization, please refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

For more information about Retail Store Authorization fees, see the Licence and Authorization Fees section of this guide.

Prior to starting a Retail Store Authorization application, we recommend that you:

  • Contact the municipality where the store will be located and confirm that the proposed retail store meets local municipal requirements for retail store siting
  • Ensure you have applied for or hold a Retail Operator Licence and have the application file number or licence number ready (both applications may be submitted at the same time)
  • Review the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores to ensure you understand the requirements for your store
  • Ensure that the operating name of the proposed retail store complies with all applicable Federal/Provincial legislation related to advertising and promotion.
Note: All retail store locations will be required to undergo a 15-day public notice process during which the location must display a Public Notice stating that an authorization has been applied for. Members of the public will have 15 days to make a submission to the AGCO regarding how the store is not in the public interest. Applicants will then have five (5) days to provide written submissions to the Registrar in response to any public written submissions. For more information, see the Public Notice for a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization section of this guide.
The Registrar’s decision to issue or not issue a Retail Store Authorization is final. Relief may be sought by way of an Application for Judicial Review to the Superior Court of Justice.

Cannabis Retail Manager Licence

In order to ensure the responsible sale of cannabis, there must be at least one licensed manager for each authorized store location.

A Cannabis Retail Manager licence is required by the manager of each retail store location and/or individuals* who wish to perform one or more of the following functions in a cannabis retail store:

  • Supervising or managing employees of a cannabis retail store;
  • Overseeing or coordinating the sale of cannabis;
  • Managing compliance issues in relation to the sale of cannabis;
  • Having signing authority to purchase cannabis, enter into contracts or make offers of employment.

For more information, visit the Cannabis Retail Manager Licence section of this guide.

*Note:  If you are a sole proprietor or in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the licensed operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store, you do not need to get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence for your store. You are however, still required to fulfil the educational requirements under Ontario law. For more information, see the previous section of this guide (Educational Requirements).

Eligibility

To be eligible for a Cannabis Retail Manager licence, an applicant must:

  • Be at least 19 years of age (including all directors, officers and shareholders if the applicant is a corporation); 
  • Be financially responsible; 
  • Conduct their business (or their duties as retail store manager) in accordance with the law, and with honesty, integrity and in the public interest;
  • Have no convictions or charges under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, or certain  sections of the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 and the Cannabis Act (Canada); 
  • Not have, or previously had, roles or connections with a criminal organization as defined in subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Canada) (i.e. the applicant must not be, or have been, a member of the criminal organization; involved in the criminal organization; or contribute, or have contributed to, the activities of the organization);
  • Not have made a false statement or provided false information in your application.

For full details on the eligibility requirements for a Cannabis Retail Store Manager Licence, please refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

Please note that police and background checks will be conducted on all applicants to determine eligibility for the licence.

For more information about Cannabis Retail Manager licence fees, see the Fees and Payment section of this guide.

To submit your online application, please have the following ready:

  • Social Insurance Number
  • Personal History for all employment and/or unemployment (including education, parental leave, etc.).  You must use the form provided in the online application.

Once approved, licensees will be issued a licence, which must be readily accessible at all times at the authorized store at which they are employed.

Educational Requirements

In addition to requiring that Store Managers are licensed, under Ontario law, all cannabis retail employees, managers and store authorization holders are required to successfully complete an AGCO Board approved cannabis retail employee training program prior to their first day of work in the store.

This includes:

  • Holders of a Retail Store Authorization;
  • Holders of a Cannabis Retail Manager (Store Manager) licence;
  • Any other individuals who work in a cannabis retail store.

CannSell is the required training for all Ontario cannabis retail employees. The CannSell training program takes approximately 4 hours to complete and is delivered as an online program in both English and French at a cost of $49.99 + HST. Individuals must score at least 80% on the final exam in order to successfully complete the program and receive their CannSell certification.

To take the CannSell training program, or for more information about the program, visit CannSell.ca

It is the responsibility of the holder of a Retail Store Authorization to ensure that all employees have met this educational requirement.

Line of Business: 

Application Process

How to Apply for a Cannabis-related Licence or Authorization

You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence or a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were selected in the lottery.

Cannabis-related applications will be accepted online only via iAGCO.

iAGCO is the AGCO’s online service delivery portal that offers its customers a convenient and digital way of doing business with the Commission. To access services from the iAGCO portal, you must first create an account and login. 

Once an account has been created and you are logged in, the portal can be used to apply for, and manage and view the status of your cannabis-related licences and authorizations, including applications, renewals and modifications.

For more information on iAGCO, please visit the iAGCO Information page.

Please note that Sundays between the hours of 4:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. are reserved for system maintenance and users may find the system not available during this time.

Applying for a Retail Operator Licence

You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were selected in the lottery. You must use the same legal name and applicant type identified on the Expression of Interest Application in your Retail Operator Licence Application

In addition to submitting an application via iAGCO, you will need to provide supporting information/document`ation.

If you are applying for a Retail Operator Licence, you will be required to submit the following prior to the Licence being issued (i.e. your licence cannot be issued without the required documentation):

  1. Tax Compliance Verification (TCV) Confirmation Code
    Applicants must provide their Tax Compliance Verification (TCV) confirmation code.  For more information, please refer to the Tax Compliance Verification (TCV) Program or contact doingbusiness@ontario.ca.
  2. Constituting Document(s)
    One or more of the following documents must be uploaded:
    • Certificate or articles of incorporation
    • Charter/By-Laws
    • Partnership Agreement
    • Limited Partnership Agreement
    • Limited Partnership Declaration
    • Shareholder’s Agreement
    • Trust Agreement
    • Any other constituting documentation relevant to the entity
  3. Schematic Diagram
    If the corporate structure of the applicant has more than one level, a schematic diagram depicting the relationship among all parent, controlling, subsidiary, affiliated and commonly controlled companies is required.  In the case of a corporation, ownership identified must total 100%. 
  4. Details of Shares
    A document listing all classes and series of shares in the entity. For each class/series, include its name, number of authorized shares, number of issued shares, any rights, privileges, restrictions, conditions as well as name of each shareholder who meet percentage threshold requirements set out for cannabis applicants.
  5. Financial Statements
    Financial Statements (balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, etc.) for the last fiscal year. If available, please provide audited consolidated financial statements.
  6. Tax Return and Tax Assessment
    A completed tax return and tax assessment for the last fiscal year available.
  7. Personal History
    A Personal History (using the form provided on iAGCO) for all employment and/or unemployment (including education, parental leave, etc.) will be required from:
    • Applicants who are Sole Proprietors
    • Disclosed individuals.

    Please note, the Registrar will consider every application for a retail operator licence, and may;

    1. issue the retail operator licence, if the applicant has met the application requirements, is not ineligible and has paid the required fee
    2. issue the licence, with proposed conditions to be attached, or
    3. issue a proposal to refuse the application

If you receive a proposal to refuse your application, you may request a hearing/appeal before the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). For more information on the LAT, please visit the LAT website.  

Applying for a Retail Store Authorization

To apply for a Retail Store Authorization, the applicant must either hold a valid Retail Operator Licence issued by the AGCO or have submitted an application for a Retail Operator Licence with the AGCO. Applications for both can be submitted at the same time.

You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence or a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted an expression of interest and were selected in the lottery.

A cannabis Retail Store must be the only business that operates out of the proposed location, and the business cannot also operate as a restaurant, coffee shop, pharmacy, convenience store, etc.  For more information, see Retail Store Requirements.

Licensed Producers

A licensed producer and its affiliates are not currently eligible for a Retail Store Authorization.  

Business Requirements

For a Retail Store Authorization to be issued, certain business requirements must be in place prior to opening to ensure the store is ready to order, receive and appropriately secure cannabis products. For example, store operators are required to ensure:

  • Cannabis and accessories will not be visible from the exterior of the premises
  • A secure, high-resolution surveillance system will be in place at all times
  • Cannabis will be stored securely at all times and be accessible only by staff

For more information on the standards and requirements for a cannabis retail store, please refer to the Registrar’s Standards for the Cannabis Retail Stores, the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

Required Documents

If you are applying for a Retail Store Authorization, please note you must have been selected in the lottery and submitted an application for a Retail Operator Licence with the AGCO or hold a valid Retail Operator Licence issued by the AGCO. You must use the same legal name and applicant type identified on the Expression of Interest Application in your Retail Operator Licence Application. In addition, the following documents must be submitted prior to a Retail Store Authorization being issued: 

  1. Business Name Registration 
    The business name under which you intend to operate may have to be registered under the Business Names Act. For information regarding business name registration please call toll free 1-800-361-3223 or visit Service Ontario

Applicants may also be required to submit the following:

  1. Proof of Ownership / Tenancy  
    Proof of Ownership / Tenancy (lease agreement, property deed, rental agreement etc.). 

Pre-Authorization Inspection

Before a Retail Store Authorization can be issued, the store location will be inspected by an AGCO Inspector to confirm/verify that all eligibility and store-specific criteria are met. During the pre-authorization inspection, AGCO Inspectors will provide you with information about your responsibilities under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards, and address any operational questions and/or concerns you may have related to the retail sale of cannabis.

For more information, see the Retail Store Pre-Authorization/Opening Inspection of this guide.

Conditions

Retail Store Authorizations may be subject to conditions specified by the Registrar pursuant to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018.

Please note that the Registrar will consider each application for a retail store authorization, and may:

  1. issue the retail store authorization, if the applicant has met the application requirements, is not ineligible and has paid the required fee or
  2. refuse the application.

The Registrar’s decision to issue or not issue a Retail Store Authorization is final. Relief may be sought by way of an Application for Judicial Review to the Superior Court of Justice.

 Applying for a Cannabis retail store manager licence

The following document(s) will be required before a Retail Store Manager Licence can be issued:

  1. Personal History
    A Personal History (using the form provided on iAGCO) for all employment and/or unemployment (including education, parental leave, etc.) 
  2. Tax Return or Tax Assessment
    A completed tax return and tax assessment for the last fiscal year available. 

Please note that the Registrar will consider every application for a retail store manager, and may:

  1. issue the retail store manager licence, if the applicant has met the application requirements, is not ineligible and has paid the required fee or
  2. issue the licence, with proposed conditions to be attached, or
  3. issue a proposal to refuse the application

If you receive a proposal to refuse your application, you may request a hearing/appeal before the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). For more information on the LAT, please visit the LAT website

Public Notice for a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization

A Cannabis Retail Store Authorization may be issued to an applicant unless the Registrar finds it is not in the public interest, as set out in the regulation made under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018.

The infographic below shows the basic steps for the public notice process.

1 Applicant posts placard at the proposed store, 15-day public notice period  begins, Store location is searchable on iAGCO, 2 Resident/municipality has 15 calendar days to  make written submission(s) to the Registrar, 3 AGCO provides copies of written submission(s) received to applicant within the 15 calendar day requirement, 4 Applicant has 5 calendar days to respond from the time written submissions are sent to the applicant, 5 Registrar considers all available information in order to make an authorization decision, 6 Registrar considers written submission(s) received within the 15 calendar day requirement

Public Notice

After an application for a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization is submitted through iAGCO, the AGCO’s online portal, the AGCO will determine the dates of the posting period (15 calendar days) and will email the Public Notice placard (in PDF format) to the applicant who is responsible for posting the placard visibly on the proposed store front. 

Once received, an applicant must print and physically display the Public Notice at the proposed store. The Public Notice placard, an example of which is shown below, displays the following information:

  • Name and address of the proposed store;
  • File number of the application;
  • Deadline date for submissions;
  • Details on who can make a submission and how to make a submission.

public_notice_placard_final.png

Public Notice posting requirements

Applicants are required to post the Public Notice according to the following requirements:

  • Print in colour on letter-sized (8½” x 11”) paper;
  • Post both English and French notices in a place where members of the public can easily read the contents without having to enter the proposed store;
  • Post for 15 calendar days (start and end dates will be provided to the applicant by the AGCO).

An AGCO Compliance Official may visit the proposed store to confirm the Public Notice is posted according to the requirements. Failure to post the Public Notice for the required period of time will result in a delay in the processing of the application and may result in reposting the Public Notice for a further 15 days.

All cannabis Retail Store Authorization applications that are undergoing the public notice process will be searchable on the AGCO’s website through the iAGCO portal

Written submissions

Written submissions about an application can only be made to the Registrar by:

  • A resident of the municipality in which the proposed store is located;
  • The municipality representing the area in which the proposed store is located. If the municipality is a lower-tier municipality, then the upper-tier municipality of which it forms a part may also make a submission. 

Written submissions can be made online at iAGCO.

Submissions must be received by the AGCO on or before the deadline date set out in the Public Notice. The AGCO will provide copies of any submissions and accompanying documents to the applicant. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.

written submissions and the public interest

The Registrar will consider written submissions as to why the proposed store is not in the public interest as set out in the regulation made under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018. The following are matters of public interest that can be considered by the Registrar:

  1. Protecting public health and safety;
  2. Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis;
  3. Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

Copies to the applicant​

After the Public Notice period has ended, the AGCO will provide the applicant with copies of any submissions received within the required time period in response to the application for a Retail Store Authorization. Personal details of the submitter, such as name, phone number, email address and mailing address, may be provided to the applicant if included in the content of the submission and/or in accompanying documents.

Applicants will have five days, from the time written submissions are sent to the Applicant, to provide written submissions to the Registrar in response to any submissions from local residents and from the municipality. The Registrar will consider the applicant’s response, if any.

Registrar’s decision

The Registrar’s decision to issue or to refuse a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization is final. Applicants who disagree with the Registrar’s decision should seek legal advice about the appropriate forum for relief.

Line of Business: 

Fees and Payment

Licence and Authorization Fees

In order to apply for a cannabis retail-related licence or authorization from the AGCO, you will have to pay the required fees. 

There are fees required when you apply for your Retail Operator Licence, Retail Manager Licence, or Retail Store Authorization and fees when you renew these licences or authorization.

The fees are:

 

Fee

2-year term

Renewal Fee
2-year term
Renewal Fee
4-year term
Retail Operator Licence $6,000 $2,000 $4,000
Retail Store Authorization $4,000 $3,500 $7,000
Cannabis Retail Manager Licence* $750 $500 $1,000

*If you are a sole proprietor or in a partnership between two or more individuals, and will be both the licensed operator and performing the duties of the retail store manager for a particular store, you will not need to get a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence for that store.

Line of Business: 

Retail Store Pre-Authorization/Opening Inspection

Prior to a Retail Store Authorization being issued and a private cannabis retail store opening for business, the store location will be inspected by an AGCO compliance official on two separate occasions to confirm that all eligibility and store-specific requirements are met. The first inspection is called a Retail Store Pre-Authorization Inspection, which is conducted prior to a Retail Store Authorization being issued, and the second inspection is a Pre-Store Opening Inspection, which will be done prior to the opening of the store. As part of both of these inspections, the compliance official will be contacting the Owner/Retail Cannabis Sales Manager to review, in advance, the requirements to ensure the location is ready for these activities.  The following sections provide more information about the inspection process.

What is a Retail Store Pre-Authorization Inspection?

Before a Retail Store Authorization will be issued, the store location will be inspected by an AGCO compliance official to confirm that all eligibility and store-specific requirements are met. During the Pre-Authorization Inspection, AGCO compliance officials will provide you with information about your obligations and responsibilities under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores and answer any operational questions and/or concerns you may have related to the retail sale of cannabis. Compliance officials will be checking that the store is ready to order, receive and appropriately secure cannabis products as required by the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores.

Things to know before scheduling an inspection

  • Ensure that you have applied for or hold a Retail Operator Licence and have the application file number or licence number ready.
  • Ensure the complete application, including supporting documents for a Retail Store Authorization, is submitted.
  •  Confirm that all required fees have been paid. Please refer to the AGCO’s Application Fee Schedule for the applicable fee.
  • Review information about your obligations and responsibilities under the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores, as well as all applicable laws and regulations, including but not limited to,  the federal Cannabis Act and its regulations, the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 (CCA), the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 (CLA), and Ontario Regulation 468/18..
  • Pre-Authorization Inspection criteria, listed below, must be completed before an inspection can be scheduled.

Pre-Authorization Inspection Criteria

An AGCO compliance official will be visiting the retail store to confirm that store specific requirements are met. Store-specific requirements include:

  • Public Notice Process (CLA subsection 4 (7))
    You must post the placard that has been issued via iAGCO email under the public notice process for 15 calendar days. The placard period does not need to be completed before an inspection can be scheduled. I.e. an inspection can be scheduled as soon as the placard has been posted based your readiness for the store to be inspected.
  • Location (AGCO application requirement)  
    The address written on the Retail Store Authorization application must match the physical address of the store.
  • Product Visibility (AGCO Registrar Standard 12
    Once cannabis products and accessories are on site, they cannot be seen from the outside of the store. (e.g. Some retail store operators may choose to use tinted glass or frosted windows to ensure products and accessories are not visible from outside of the store.) During the pre-authorization inspection, you will be required to demonstrate and confirm how you will meet this requirement.
  • Video Surveillance System (AGCO Registrar Standard 8)
    A secure, high-resolution surveillance system must be in working order at all times. During the pre-authorization inspection, you will be required to demonstrate and confirm that you will have a video surveillance system in place that includes the following minimum requirements:
    1. Cameras and lighting must be positioned to clearly capture 24-hour coverage of the interior of the premises and immediately outside the premises, including the:
      1. Entrances and exits, including where IDs are checked;
      2. Point of sale area(s);
      3. Receiving area(s);
      4. Sales floor area(s); and
      5. Cannabis storage area(s).
    2. Video recordings must be made and retained for a minimum of 30 days and be made available to the AGCO upon request;
    3. The Licensee must ensure that the surveillance system is functioning properly at all times.
  • Storage (AGCO Registrar Standard 9)
    Operators must be able to demonstrate and confirm that all cannabis products will be stored securely at all times and only be available to staff from the time the product arrives at the store to point of sale, destruction, or return to Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) or Licensed Producer.
  • Other Businesses (Ontario Regulation 468/18, section 9)
    The store must be enclosed by walls and separated from any other commercial establishment or activity and from any outdoor area. The store cannot be entered from or passed through in order to access any other commercial establishment, other than a common area of an enclosed shopping mall.
  • Store Management (CLA 5(1), CLA 25 (1), AGCO Registrar Standard 3)
    The store must be managed by either a licensed Retail Operator or a licensed Retail Manager. Licensed Retail Operators and licensed Retail Managers may only be responsible for managing one authorized store at a time. You may be asked to provide your Retail Operator or Retail Manager licence upon request.
  • Unauthorized Access (AGCO Registrar Standard 11)
    All entry points to the store, including doors and windows, must be secure and protected against unauthorized access.

How to schedule an Inspection

Once the complete Retail Store Authorization application has been submitted, notify the AGCO that the retail store has met all of the store specific requirements and is ready for an inspection. The AGCO Compliance official will contact you to set up an appointment. The applicant must be present at the retail store during the inspection.

Once all eligibility and store specific requirements are met, a Retail Store Authorization will be issued which may include certain terms and conditions, which the licensed Retail Operator must comply with before the store is open to the public.

Retail Store Pre-Opening Inspection

What is a Retail Pre-Opening Inspection?

Once a Retail Store Authorization has been issued, all retail stores will be inspected a second time to confirm that the store is ready for a licensed Retail Operator to open for business and sell cannabis products to the public in accordance with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, its regulations and the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores. This includes meeting the Pre-opening requirements.

An AGCO compliance official will contact the licensed Retail Operator to schedule the Pre-opening Inspection. Pre-opening inspection requirements include:

  • Outdoor Store Signage (CA s. 18, AGCO Registrar Standard 22)
    Signage must identify the business on the outside of the authorized store. Outdoor signage must not have information referring to
    • the price or distribution of cannabis or cannabis accessories;
    • appeal to young persons;
    • testimonials or endorsements;
    • a person, character, or animal, whether real or fictional;
    • cannabis or a cannabis accessories in a way that it associates it with or evokes a positive or negative emotion or image of a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring;
    • cannabis or cannabis accessories in a way that is false, misleading, or deceptive;
    • medicine, health, or pharmaceuticals;
    • using cannabis with driving a motorized vehicle, or with any activity that requires care and skill or has elements of danger.
  • Provincial Seal of Authorization (Ontario Regulation 468/18, section 19)
    You must display the Provincial Seal of Authorization in a place that is visible from the exterior of the public entrance to the cannabis retail store. The retail seal must be least 17 centimetres in width at its widest point by 20 centimetres in length. Either the French version, the English version or both versions of the cannabis retail seal may be displayed
  • Interior Store Signage (CA s. 17, AGCO Registrar Standard 23)
    You may promote cannabis and cannabis accessories within the store only if:
    • The promotion is limited to factual information about:
      1. Cannabis or a cannabis accessory and its characteristics;
      2. A service related to cannabis; or
      3. The availability or price of cannabis, cannabis accessories, or a service related to cannabis.
    • The promotion focuses on brand characteristics of cannabis or cannabis accessories
  • Storage (AGCO Registrar Standard 9)
    All products must be stored securely at all times and only be available to staff from the time the product arrives at the store to point of sale, destruction, or return to OCRC or Licensed Producer.
  • Authorized Products (CLA s. 18, Ontario Regulation 468/18 s. 18)
    You may only sell cannabis products purchased from the OCRC in the packaging which it was purchased from the OCRC. Cannabis accessories and shopping bags do not need to be purchased from the OCRC.
  • Staff (CLA s. 23, CLA s. 5(4), Ontario Regulation 468/18 s. 21)
    All staff employed to work before the cannabis retail store is open as well as after the store is open to the public, must be 19 years of age or older. Licensees must obtain criminal background checks from employees as part of the hiring process, as well as ensure that all employees:
    • act in accordance with the law and demonstrate honesty and integrity
    • have completed any required training, including AGCO Board-approved CannSell training, prior to their first scheduled shift.
  • Unauthorized Access (Ontario Regulation 468/18 s. 20)
    A description of the measures the licensed Retail Operator will undertake to ensure that patrons who look under 25 years of age are not permitted to enter the cannabis retail store unless they provide a valid piece of identification proving that they are at least 19 years of age.
  • Point of Sale Tracking System  (AGCO Registrar Standard 27 and 30)
    You must ensure that the point of sale system used in the retail store:
    • Records and maintains certain records outlined in the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores. These records must be retained for a minimum of three (3)  years and made available upon request by the AGCO.
    • Is certified by a recognized industry certification body or organization (e.g. International Organization for Standardization - ISO) and have logging capability for the purposes of monitoring all system access and system changes.
    • Complete full physical inventory counts of all cannabis products on a weekly basis at a minimum or upon the request of AGCO. All discrepancies of inventory must be reported to AGCO as soon as possible
  • AGCO Authorization (Ontario Regulation 468/18, s. 13)
    You must display the AGCO Retail Store Authorization in a visible place to patrons in the retail store.
  • Sensory Display Containers (Standard 13)
    You may use sensory display containers to allow patrons to see and smell cannabis products. Display containers must be locked and tamper-proof to prevent patrons from touching the products, and must not be able to be removed from the premises.
    This requirement can be met during the pre-opening inspection or during the on-going inspection phase once you decide to use sensory display containers.

Retail Store Ongoing Inspection

AGCO compliance officials may visit the retail store location at any time to confirm compliance with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and regulations and Registrar’s Standards. You must allow the inspection, and you must not interfere with the AGCO compliance official, refuse to answer questions related to the inspection, or provide false information. 

 When conducting an inspection, an AGCO compliance official may:

  • ask you for and look at records that are relevant to the inspection;
  • take records away from the store to review, examine, test or copy. In this case, the compliance official will give you a receipt confirming which records have been taken; 
  • After the compliance official has taken the records, you can request that the records be made available to you;
  • The records will be returned to you in a reasonable time, unless the records cannot be returned because of the testing done;
  • take photographs or other recordings;
  • ask about financial transactions, records or other matters relevant to the inspection.

If a compliance official asks you for a record, you must provide it. You must also must help the compliance official understand the record or provide it in a readable form.

AGCO compliance officials will also confirm the following:

  • Education (AGCO Registrar Standard 26)
    Information related to the responsible use of cannabis must be made available to patrons at all times. At a minimum, you must make the Health Canada Consumer Information – Cannabis document available to patrons. 
  • Retail Store Staff Education (Ontario Regulation 468/18, s.21)
    Retail store staff including holders of Retail Store Authorizations, cannabis retail manager licensees and staff employed at the retail store must complete the required AGCO Board approved CannSell training prior to their first day of work to support the safe sale, and consumption of cannabis. The online CanSell training program, available in English and French, educates cannabis retail employees on the responsible sale of cannabis and their legal and regulatory obligations.
Line of Business: 

Cannabis Retail Seal

As described in Ontario Regulation 468/18, operators of cannabis retail stores authorized by the AGCO must print and display the Provincial Retail Seal in a place that is visible from the exterior of the public entrance to the cannabis retail store. The retail seal must be at least 17 centimetres in width at its widest point by 20 centimetres in length. Either the French version, the English version or both versions of the cannabis retail seal may be displayed. 

Once the AGCO has approved and issued a Retail Store Authorization, it will give the applicant access to downloadable versions of the seal in various file formats. The image cannot be altered in any way.

on-authorized-en_sample.png

Hearings - Cannabis

Hearings under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018

Overview

Hearings for cannabis Retail Manager Licence and Retail Operator Licence matters under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 are heard by the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), which is an independent, quasi-judicial agency of the Government of Ontario that adjudicates applications and resolves disputes concerning compensation claims and licensing activities regulated by the provincial government. LAT is one of five tribunals in the Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunal Ontario (SLASTO) cluster; it is not part of the AGCO.

If you have received a Notice of Proposal (NOP) issued by the Registrar, you have the right to a hearing/appeal before LAT. For more information about requesting a hearing/appeal as well as any fees LAT may require, please visit the LAT website.

Notice of Proposal

If the Registrar proposes to refuse, revoke or suspend a Retail Operator Licence, Retail Manager Licence, or to revoke or suspend a Retail Store Authorization, the Registrar will serve a Notice of Proposal (NOP) on the applicant/licensee outlining the reasons for the proposed action.

Applicants/licensees who wish to dispute a NOP issued by the Registrar may appeal it. If you receive an NOP and wish to request a hearing, you have fifteen (15) days to appeal to LAT. If an appeal is not received within fifteen (15) days, the Registrar may carry out the proposed action and a final Order will be issued.

One decision that may not be appealed to LAT is the Registrar’s decision to issue or not to issue a Retail Store Authorization. This decision is reviewable under the Judicial Review Process Act and any applicant or licensee who wishes to dispute it may seek legal advice about the appropriate forum for relief.

In a situation where there are serious violations alleged such that it is in the public interest not to allow a licensee to continue to sell cannabis, the Registrar may immediately suspend a Retail Operator Licence, Retail Store Authorization or Retail Store Manager Licence.

In certain instances, including where the holder of a Retail Operator Licence, a Retail Store Authorization or a Retail Manager Licence is convicted of selling cannabis to a minor, the Registrar is required by the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 to immediately revoke the licence or authorization.

LAT Decisions

Decisions of hearings held before LAT, can be found on the LAT website.

Guides