Ontario Dispensary Laws

Ontario Cannabis Retail Regulations

Like many provinces in Canada, Ontario is gearing up for federal cannabis legalization by establishing a provincial framework for retail cannabis. Taking on a phased approach, Ontario will begin with a government-operated online cannabis store starting October 17, 2018. If proposed legislation is passed, Ontario will allow private retail storefronts starting in April 2019.

 Ontario has set the minimum age for purchase of non-medical cannabis at 19. If proposed amendments to Bill 36 pass, cannabis will be legal to consume anywhere tobacco is allowed. Municipal governments can opt out of the retail cannabis program.

 The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will be in charge of all wholesale cannabis inventory, online cannabis sales, licensing operators, approving retail cannabis sites, and licensing cannabis retail managers and senior-level employees. The AGCO will also be in charge of all inspections and enforcement.

 The cannabis licensing process in Ontario is expected to open in December 2018 if proposed legislation passes. There are still many details to be worked out, but we have provided answers to as many Ontario dispensary law questions as possible below. We will continually update this page as new information is released.

CANNABIS RETAIL LICENSING

Looking to launch a cannabis retail operation in Ontario? Here’s everything you need to know about the licensing process

WHAT KIND OF RETAIL LOCATIONS ARE AUTHORIZED?

Starting October 17, 2018, adults in Ontario will be able to purchase non-medical cannabis through the Ontario Cannabis Store, a publicly operated online store and delivery system. If proposed legislation passes, privately operated brick-and-mortar stores are estimated to begin selling cannabis starting April 2019.

WHEN WILL THE AGCO OPEN THE CANNABIS LICENSE APPLICATION IN ONTARIO?

The AGCO is aiming to open the application process for store operator licenses in December 2018, contingent upon proposed legislation passing. Bookmark this page and check back frequently for updates.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR CANNABIS RETAIL PERMITTING?

The cannabis license application in Ontario has yet to be released. According to proposed legislation, the AGCO will be in charge of the licensing process. Applicants will be subject to criminal and financial eligibility checks as well as presently undetermined fees.

The AGCO will grant three required authorizations and licenses: 1) Retail Operator License, 2) Cannabis Retail Manager License, and 3) Retail Store Authorization.

During the Retail Operator License application, applicants will be required to propose a retail cannabis site (where they intend to put each storefront) to the AGCO. Before the AGCO will grant a Retail Store Authorization, the municipal government and community will have a 15-day notification period to voice concerns. Store managers and senior-level employees will be required to go through the AGCO’s Cannabis Retail Manager licensing process as well.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ONTARIO’S RETAIL CANNABIS LICENSING PROCESS?

You can read the full text of the proposed legislation on retail cannabis in Ontario here. We will continually update this page as more details are released for the cannabis license application in Ontario.

 



CANNABIS RETAIL SALES

Remaining compliant with federal and provincial regulations will be critical. Learn the details of Ontario’s cannabis retail law here.

WHAT IS THE MINIMUM AGE OF PURCHASE FOR RETAIL CANNABIS?

The minimum age for purchasing non-medical cannabis is 19, one year older than the federal minimum age required for tobacco or alcohol.

WILL ONLINE CANNABIS SALES BE AUTHORIZED?

Yes; the AGCO will operate the Ontario Cannabis Store, an online marketplace and delivery system. Online cannabis sales in Ontario will begin on October 17, 2018.

WHERE CAN RETAIL CANNABIS STORES BUY WHOLESALE CANNABIS INVENTORY?

If proposed legislation is passed, retailers will be required to purchase all wholesale inventory exclusively from the publicly-owned Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. This is the same entity that will run the online Ontario Cannabis Store.

CAN RETAIL CANNABIS STORES SELL ANYTHING OTHER THAN CANNABIS?

According to proposed legislation, any other products sold must be approved by the AGCO first.

WHAT ARE THE POSSESSION LIMITS FOR RETAIL CUSTOMERS?

If proposed legislation passes, adults over the age of 19 years old will be able to have a maximum of 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried cannabis in public at any time.

WHAT ARE THE PURCHASE LIMITS FOR RETAIL CUSTOMERS?

Proposed legislation says purchase limits cannot exceed the 30 gram possession allowance, but could be limited to a lesser amount. We will update this answer when purchase limits are finalized.

CANNABIS TRACKING AND REPORTING

Cannabis tracking and reporting helps the government prevent diversion into the black market. Get the facts here.

WHAT IS REQUIRED OF CANNABIS RETAILERS WITH REGARD TO TRACKING AND REPORTING?

Details on tracking and reporting requirements have not been fully released. Proposed legislation would allow Ontario’s government to establish standards and requirements regarding tracking and reporting, including the keeping of records, including financial records; reasonable measures to maintain data security; and compliance with the cannabis tracking system established in the Bill 81: Cannabis Act (Canada).

WILL COVA’S POS MEET ALL TRACKING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS?

As more details are released, our team will work to ensure our cannabis-specific point of sale system goes above and beyond the requirements in Ontario. Currently, our system provides top of the line data storage and security and is compliant with tracking standards established in Canada’s Cannabis Act.

CANNABIS COMPLIANCE

Staying compliant with federal, provincial, and local regulations – including cannabis seed-to-sale reporting requirements – is your top priority as a cannabis retailer.

What is required of cannabis retailers with regard to tracking and reporting?

The proposed Cannabis Act authorizes the Minister to establish a national cannabis tracking system and to require licensed operators to report all cannabis activity. Typically, a point-of-sale system that is integrated with the national reporting system is the ideal solution for cannabis retailers.

 

Details on the required information and timeframe for reporting have not yet been determined.

Will I be required to use a certain tracking/inventory control system?

The federal government is still in the process of establishing a national seed-to-sale tracking system. More information on retailers’ responsibilities will be released as it becomes available.

 

What happens if I am found out of compliance?

If you are found out of compliance by an inspector, you will be issued a Contravention Notice and may be recommended for enforcement action. Penalties are still under development but may include a fine or license suspension/cancellation. There will also be a reconsideration process by which you may challenge the result of the enforcement hearing.

METRC

Reporting to your governing body is essential to running a legal (and successful) cannabis retail dispensary. Get the facts here.

What is Metrc?

Metrc is a cannabis track and trace reporting system that allows state governments to monitor commercial cannabis activity. Metrc, which stands for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance, was originally developed by software manufacturer Franwell for the state of Colorado; it is now used by the majority of states with adult-use cannabis markets.

When can I start working with Metrc?

Once you have a temporary or annual retail operator license, have created your account in Metrc and completed the required training, you may begin working with Metrc.



Am I required to report track and trace data in Metrc if I have a temporary license?

No, temporary licensees are not required to report in Metrc. However, temporary licensees are required to keep records of all track and trace information from the time they begin retail operations. Once an annual license has been approved, you must backlog all the track and trace information that you’ve recorded and begin daily reporting in Metrc.

How do I report in Metrc?

Once you’ve set up your account in Metrc, you’ll be able to enter your daily track and trace reports. There are two ways to do this.

The first way is manual reporting. This method requires logging in to your Metrc account at the end of every single business day and manually entering all the data from every transaction and other activity that occurred. Along with being time-consuming and cumbersome, manual reporting puts you at great risk of mistakenly recording incorrect information—which can lead to a serious compliance issue.

The second way is to utilize a retail-specific cannabis dispensary software that can integrate with Metrc and automatically sync reportable data from your store’s transactions and activities as they occur in real time.

How do I report if the system is down or the internet is out?

In the event that you lose connectivity to Metrc or experience an internet outage that prevents you from daily reporting, you must record all reportable information and upload it to the system within three days of restored connectivity.



What are my responsibilities with regard to inventory documentation and reconciliation?

The state mandates that retailers maintain accurate inventory records. Physical inventory must be reconciled with records at least once every 14 days. You must also reconcile physical inventory with the counts you’ve reported in Metrc at least every 14 days.




POINT OF SALE

You definitely need a cannabis-specific POS at your dispensary. Find the most frequently asked tech questions here.

How do I manage state compliance using my point-of-sale?

Cova POS software provides complete seed-to-sale tracking functionality and has a number of built-in features designed to help you automatically comply with the legal regulations in your state/province. For example, the Cova POS system automatically monitors:

  • Purchase Limits – The POS system automatically calculates the correct THC amounts for all products, including concentrates and edibles. By relieving your staff of this complex task, the POS prevents mistakes in calculation and allows your budtenders to focus on customer service—and not on mathematical conversions. The system also enforces purchase limits by alerting staff when a limit has been reached and preventing budtenders from executing a sale that would place you over the legal limit.
  • Hours of Operation – The system can be easily configured to comply with local laws. Once the operational hours are set up, the POS will not allow sales to be executed outside the legal hours of operation, preventing potential violations before they occur.
  • Customer Identification Requirements – Customer IDs are easily scanned and recorded, ensuring your staff double checks IDs and virtually eliminating potential sales to minors or other individuals lacking the requisite documentation.
  • Accurate Real-Time Reporting – Operational visibility is also very important for your team. Cova POS software generates management reports in real time. These reports can be easily distributed across the organization to ensure the correct data is in the hands of the correct personnel.
  • Fully Compliant Product Labelling & Receipts Cova Software enables the complete customization of all printed materials, product labels, and receipts, enabling you to comply with all local regulations related to labeling and packaging quickly and easily.



What happens if my internet connection goes down and my dispensary is slammed with customers?

To ensure that you always maintain an expedient transaction pace and keep lines moving, Cova comes with a built-in offline sales processing mode that enables continuous access to critical functions even when your Wi-Fi or internet connection is unavailable. Once connectivity is restored, all transactions performed in offline mode are synchronized with the state’s reporting system, data is backed up, and reports and inventory records are adjusted accordingly.

How do I make sure I submit timely and accurate taxes each month to the government?

By choosing a POS system with built-in tax reporting functionality, you’ll always know exactly how much tax you need to pay.



Why is it important to have a marijuana-specific POS vs. a retail or pharmacy POS?

There are several reasons why a cannabis-specific POS is ideal for your operation—but the most important one is compliance management. Because traditional retail operations and pharmacies don’t have the same government-mandated compliance requirements, their POS systems aren’t built to manage the complexities involved with track and trace reporting and the other aspects of state compliance.

What happens if the state regulations change? How does Cova stay on top of this?

With the industry still in its infancy, regulations are bound to change. At Cova, our team keeps up with industry-wide and state-specific changes so that our developers can quickly made necessary software updates—and so you never have to worry about remaining compliant with the latest regulations.

Is Cova integrated with Metrc?

Currently, Metrc is not yet live in California since the state's regulations have not yet been officially adopted. However, Cova is working closely with Metrc and has already begun the process of integration, and we plan to be ready when the system goes live.



I have a high-traffic store. Can Cova support me and handle my volume?

Absolutely! Cova software is built on technology that has the ability to dynamically scale with your needs. Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Platform, Azure, automatically detects instances of heavy traffic (such as sales on 4/20) and assigns further servers and computing power as necessary to compensate—allowing you to process sales without interruption, even during the busiest retail periods.



Do I have to follow CA compliance even if it is not in effect? Will the POS still process sales?

Although technically you are not mandated to comply with the new law and regulations until July, it’s a good idea to implement a compliant POS now so you don’t have to switch later.

How do I do the 14-day inventory reconciliation?

With Cova, you can easily stay compliant with California’s inventory reconciliation requirement by printing the Inventory-on-hand report and checking it against your physical inventory. You can make any necessary adjustments directly into the POS, which will then sync the data across your network.

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