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How to Prepare for Cannabis Retail in Ontario

Ontario cannabis retail license application

Non-medical cannabis sales in Canada are underway. However, in Ontario, the only retail option available to residents is the online Ontario Cannabis Store.

Following the June election of Premier Doug Ford, Ontario overturned its previous policy of a solely government-run cannabis industry, and has announced that private retail sales will, in fact, be allowed on April 1, 2019. As it stands, there are a lot of specifics that remain unknown to potential Ontario retailers like the following:
  • What hours they’ll be authorized to operate?
  • What kind of signage they’ll be allowed to display at their location?
  • Whether the province will limit how much product can be sold at one time (the federal public possession limit is 30 grams of dried cannabis).

Though details remain cloudy, prospective Ontario cannabis retailers can begin making big-picture preparations before the province’s licensing process begins in December. Today, we’re looking at the major items you need to be addressing ahead of applying for a cannabis retail operator’s license in Ontario.

1. Scout Your Brick and Mortar Location

It’s never too soon to start scouting potential locations for your retail cannabis store. Because zoning ordinances and distance requirements are yet to be finalized, a good strategy would be to start by researching specific municipalities you’d like to operate in, to get an idea of their local demographics and “business-friendliness” — i.e., what additional hurdles you may run into at the local level.

You should also search out a realtor who has cannabis-specific contacts and can help you find a location that is equipped with the physical features you’re looking for. This way, you’ll have minimum renovations to do, and you’ll know your landlord is OK with your intended use of the facility.

2. Write Your Cannabis Retail Business Plan

Your business plan is the single most important document you’ll need to create during the formation of your cannabis retail store. A well-written business plan will help you obtain financing and demonstrate to the government exactly how you will satisfy all the legal requirements.

Your cannabis retail business plan should cover your location (or at least several potential locations that you’ve already scouted), your financial plans and needs, your proposed use of all funds, your team, your sales and marketing plan, how your daily operations will flow, and the details of your security plan.

3. Identify Your Cannabis Technology Needs

If you’re experienced in retail, you have an idea of what a good point-of-sale system can do to streamline operations. But if you’re new to cannabis, you may not be used to the level of regulatory compliance you’ll be held to in this new space. Therefore, it’s a good idea to start looking into these considerations ahead of time.

A cannabis-specific POS and inventory management system can save you time and money, all while protecting you from costly compliance infractions.

4. Start Building Your Retail Team

This is also a good time to start putting out want ads for positions on your retail dream team. Like most retail operations, you’ll need managers to oversee various functions and departments as well as lower-level, customer-centric staff like budtenders.

Getting into Cannabis Retail in Ontario? Let’s Talk!

If you’re preparing to open a cannabis retail store in Ontario, let’s chat. We’ll set up a demo to show you exactly how Cova can streamline your entire operation and safeguard you from potential compliance infractions


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