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Ontario's cannabis shops are open today, but less than half are good to go

Shawn Jeffords and Armina Ligaya, Canadian Press

Published Monday, April 1, 2019 5:49 AM EDT

Last Updated Monday, April 1, 2019 11:32 AM EDT

Customers arranged to buy a pot in the first brick and mortar cannabis stores in Ontario on Monday, but less than half of the provincial government's licensed outlets were ready to open.

The Progressive Conservative government had planned to launch 25 shops on 1 April, but some were still working through a long approval process.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission said the province, which oversees the vetting process at the store, said that 10 stores had the green light to open on Monday, although shop operators can decide on their day. opening their own business hours.

Three shops were authorized to open in Ottawa, two at Kingston and one each in Toronto, Brampton, Burlington, London, and St. Mary's. Catharines.

So far, cannabis leisure is only available through a government-managed website to buy it legally in Ontario.

In Toronto, Stephanie Shamoon was the second person in a line of over 40 people outside the Hunny Pot Cannabis Company, the only shop to open its doors in the city on Monday. She said she was shocked by the unreasonable cold of 10 p.m. Sunday night so that it could be part of the historic moment.

Although Shamoon, 20, is already buying her cannabis legally online, she said that shopping in a physical shop was much easier.

"You can come in straight away, pick up what you want … you can smell it," he said.

Hunny Gawri, owner of the stunning retail shop, spread over four floors, said that last night it was barely sleepy as they rushed to prepare for the opening.

"We have a full house here," he said. "It's everything we could have asked for."

Although cannabis retailers throughout Canada have faced a shortage of products since legalization last October, Gawri said that his shop had accepted everything he had ordered. When asked whether he was worried about running out of products in the coming days, he said, "it's hard to say."

"There are so many people coming through … we hope we have enough supply before the next presentation," he said.

In Burlington, Art Jackes arrived 4p to go outside RELM Cannabis Co. By 9am, about two dozen people were waiting for the aperture doors to open.

Jackes, 67, who is a medicinal cannabis user, said the overall experience in the shop was good, but said the prices were too high.

"The government will have no chance of dealing with the black market if they do not reduce the cost," he said.

Gord Nichols, who arrived at the shop at 5:30 am.m., said he had joined because he wanted to be part of history.

"I wanted to wait and see what the excitement is," he said. "The end of the ban is."

Nichols said he hoped that legalization was pushing cannabis out of the shadows and picking up some of the stigma around him.

"It's going to be different from my purchase and to relax at home and not be afraid," he said.

Shop owner David Nguyen said he was happy to be one of the few shops in the province to open doors on Monday. The word "from the end" – was marked in gold balloons – had decorated one storage wall.

"We are all here to make history," he said. "We have great educators to learn about products and we also have security to ensure they check IDs."

The Tory government had initially said that there would be no cap on the number of retail stores after legalizing the pot. In December, noting national supply issues, the government said it gave licenses to only 25 stores.

Shops that are unable to open on Monday face increasing penalties, but the government has said it will not rush the vetting process.

The government held a lottery in January to select 25 entities that could apply for storage licenses.

Lottery winners then had to turn their applications in, plus a non-refundable $ 6,000 fee and a $ 50,000 credit letter, and they had to agree to a strict timeline to open their shops.

The Alcohol and Gambling Commission has the power to withdraw the credit letter in stages in case of delay. Failure to open a shop today can lead to a reduction of $ 12,500, although it is not open by the end of April, which means that applicants lose their entire $ 50,000 credit letter.

Pot store licenses have been shared regionally, with five going to eastern Ontario, seven to the west, two in the north, six in the Toronto Area Greater and five in Toronto itself.

– with files from Paola Loriggio.

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