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Here’s what you need to know to become a licensed cannabis retailer in Ontario.

Now that the Ontario government is issuing up to 80 cannabis retail store authorizations monthly, there’s growing interest in opening a dispensary. Are you thinking about opening a cannabis dispensary in Ontario? Here’s some information about the licences and authorizations that you’ll need.

Retail Operator Licence

As a store owner, you must first apply for a Retail Operator Licence. To be eligible for this licence, you must meet the eligibility criteria set out in the Cannabis Licence Act. You will need to know the type and structure of your business, and you’ll have to answer both business and individual disclosure questions and sign a declaration. Your application will also require a Tax Compliance Verification Confirmation Code, a detailed personal history and a third-party agreement.

If you have previously applied for a Retail Operator Licence and been refused, or if you have had a Retail Operator Licence that was revoked, you must wait two years before you can reapply. Retail Operator Licences cannot be transferred to any other person or business.

Retail Store Authorization

Once you have your Retail Operator Licence, you can apply for a Retail Store Authorization. You’ll need a separate authorization for each retail location that you’re planning to open. Locations are approved based on public interest, and those that potentially pose a risk to public health and safety, that make it easier for young people to access cannabis or that could encourage illicit activities with regard to cannabis will not be approved.

Retail Store Authorizations cannot be transferred to any other person or business.

Together, the initial fees for a 2-year Retail Operator Licence and a 2-year Retail Store Authorization total $10,000.

Cannabis Retail Manager Licence

By law, unless the licensed operator is also a sole proprietor, or the licensed operator is in a partnership and will be performing the duties of the retail store manager at a particular store, every cannabis retail store location must have a licensed retail manager. A Cannabis Retail Manager Licence is needed by every employee who:

  • Supervises, manages or hires store employees.

  • Manages the sale of cannabis.

  • Manages compliance issues relating to the sale of cannabis.

  • Buys cannabis for the store.

  • Enters into contracts for the store.

Generally, a licensed retail manager must wait for two years before reapplying if they have previously applied and been refused, or if they had a Cannabis Retail Manager Licence in the past that was revoked. Cannabis Retail Manager Licences cannot be transferred to another individual.

The initial fee for a 2-year Cannabis Retail Manager Licence is $750.

Opening a retail cannabis dispensary might seem like a daunting task, but If you follow the regulations outlined by the Ontario AGCO, obtaining the necessary licences should be straightforward. Once you’ve got your licences, you can start to build business relationships with other essential providers, such as your payment processor, POS system provider and click and collect provider.

Visit the AGCO website for all licensing and regulatory requirements and to stay aware of any updates to the legislation. You can also contact us for information about cannabis lawyers and consultants who specialize in cannabis retail.

Call us at 1-800-957-0534 or email us at

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