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.
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