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Eastern Ontario Towns Shut Out in Latest Cannabis Retail Lottery

Only one eastern Ontario community won the right to apply for a cannabis retail license in Ontario’s second shambolic retail application lottery—and that was in a suburb of Ottawa.

After the first Ontario retail lottery limited applicants to cities of 50,000 people or more, some applicants were disappointed the second lottery (which held no such limitation, except tying in Northern Ontario applicants to population centres) failed to bring cannabis retail into rural settings.

In the second lottery’s “East Region,” the three winners in Innisfil, plus one in Barrie, and one in Kawartha Lakes, meant communities east of Oshawa saw themselves shut out.

Hawkesbury, Ontario—whose population is buoyed to nearly 12,000 thanks to the community of Grenville, Quebec located just across the Ottawa River—has no recreational retail.

Mayor Paula Assaly lamented that population centres are statistically more likely to field winning applications than small towns.

Part of the problem is the extremely small number of cannabis stores per residents.

Ontario has 0.52 stores per 100,000 residents, compared with Newfoundland and Labrador, which has 4.8, and Colorado, which averages 10 cannabis stores per 100,000 people.

In June, the Globe and Mail surveyed Canadian cannabis retailers and calculated each province would need 3,400 more cannabis stores to achieve nationwide per capita retail access equal to that of Colorado.

However, Russell, Ontario Mayor Pierre Leroux acknowledged communities like his aren’t priorities for retailers.

“You’re going to open a store where there’s the most bang for your buck,” he told the CBC.

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image
Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.

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