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 Retail Operator Licence, Retail Store Authorization and Cannabis Retail Store Manager applicants.
  • Applications must be submitted online through the iAGCO portal and 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
    • Applicant delays in providing the AGCO with fully executed agreements with third parties and disclosure information on all parties with an interest in the business
  • 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.

 

Licence Holder Responsibilities

For complete details about your legal responsibilities as a licence holder, refer to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations which is available 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.

 

Application Process for Operating a Cannabis Retail Store on a First Nations Reserve

To operate a retail store and sell recreational cannabis in a store on a First Nations reserve, you must apply for a Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization.

  • You may only apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization if you submitted a complete Retail Store Authorization application online form through iAGCO and were one of the applications selected in the first come, first served process.

To be eligible to obtain a Retail Store Authorization, Applicants for a cannabis retail store to be located on a First Nations reserve must demonstrate that the Band Council has approved the location of the prospective cannabis retail store.

A Band Council Resolution must:

  • Be uploaded as a requirement to complete the Retail Store Authorization Intent to Apply
  • Approve the location of the store on the reserve

To receive a Retail Operator Licence or Retail Store Authorization for a cannabis retail store to be located on a First Nations reserve, a prospective operator must also meet all the requirements of the Cannabis Licence Act

For more information about the application process for operating a cannabis retail store on a First Nations reserve, please see the Application Process for a Cannabis Retail Store on a First Nations Reserve web page.

 

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: (1) submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were selected in the lottery, or (2) submitted a Retail Store Authorization Intent to Apply online form and were notified to apply for a ROL and RSA for a store on a First Nations reserve. Please see the Second allocation of stores - Allocation Lottery for more information. Please see Stores on First Nations Reserves 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.

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: (1) submitted an Expression of Interest Application and were selected in the lottery or (2) submitted a Retail Store Authorization Intent to Apply online form and were notified to apply for a ROL and RSA for a store on a First Nations reserve.

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 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.)
  • 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.
     

For more information, 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 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

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: The Public Notice process is not required for stores on First Nations reserves. The location of the store is approved by the Band Council. All retail store locations, other than those on First Nations reserves, 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, 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
  • 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

In addition to submitting an online application via the iAGCO portal, you will need to provide supporting information/documentation.

If you are applying for a Retail Operator Licence, 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
    3. issue a proposal to refuse the application

If you are an Applicant on the Selected List for a Region or North Region city that has been contacted by the AGCO and provided with a notification letter from the Registrar, you will be required, within five (5) business days of the Registrar notifying you of your selection:

  • To submit an original $50,000 Standby Letter of Credit from a bank found in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Bank Act (federal), or a credit unions and caisses populaires registered under the Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act, 1994, substantively in the AGCO form identified by the AGCO. The Standby Letter of Credit is to be secured until the end of the Allocation Timeline
  • To submit a formally executed legal instrument that demonstrates the Applicant has a right to possession of the retail space as identified in the Expression of Interest Application.  The legal instrument must:
    • Be in the name of the Applicant
    • Provide the same street address for the retail space as identified in the Expression of Interest Application.
  • To submit an application for a Retail Operator Licence and make the non-refundable $6,000 Retail Operator Licence fee payment.  
  • To submit an application for a Retail Store Authorization using the same retail store location as provided within the Expression of Interest Application and make the non-refundable $4,000 Retail Store Authorization fee payment.
  • To use the same legal name and Applicant type in the Retail Operator Licence application as was used in their Expression of Interest 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 (RSA), 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.

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.  

Holder of an RSA or Affiliate of the Holder of an RSA

No RSA may be issued to the holder of an RSA or the affiliate of the holder of an RSA.

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

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 Compliance Official to confirm/verify that all eligibility and store-specific criteria are met. During the pre-authorization inspection, AGCO Compliance Official 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
  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
  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