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 provincial online store for recreational cannabis sales in Ontario. The AGCO does not regulate the OCS.


The Licences and Authorizations you need from the AGCO


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, 2018 and its regulations.
A Retail Operator Licence allows you to operate a retail store in Ontario. 

Retail Store Authorization  

You must have a Retail Store Authorization for your store. 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. 

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: purchasing cannabis for the store; sale and distribution of cannabis for the store; managing compliance issues; and hiring, supervising and managing employees.
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


Ontario municipalities had a one-time option to opt out of having cannabis retail stores in their communities. Municipalities had 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 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 must 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. 

First Nations Communities

Delivery of cannabis to First Nations communities is permitted unless the community has requested delivery be restricted.

First Nations band councils wishing to restrict delivery to their community can submit a band council resolution (BCR) to the AGCO. The AGCO will notify all retailers when a BCR is received and the restriction would come into effect 30 days after such notice is provided, after which point any delivery to the First Nations community would not be permitted.