December 11, 2018

Ontario Cannabis Retail Regulations Summary

Ryan Lalonde profile image
Ryan Lalonde

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster ride for those looking to open a cannabis retail store in Ontario.

Initially, there was going to be an unlimited number of cannabis retail licenses issued within the province, but due to cannabis production shortages, Ontario will instead be taking a “phased” approach to issuing cannabis retail licenses.

A lottery, conducted by the accounting firm KPMG, will be held to determine who will be able to apply for one of the 25 initial stores, which are expected to open in April 2019. Any parties or individuals who are looking to participate in the lottery will have to submit their Expression of Interest, online, from January 7-9, 2019.

Although many new regulations are still anticipated, the standards & requirements pertaining to cannabis retail in the province are becoming more clear as we approach the expected start date.

Here’s what we know so far:

1. Yes to Smell Jars; No to Display Windows

Ontario retailers will be able to leverage smell/sniff jars within their premises, in tamper-proof containers. However, cannabis or accessories (and essentially the entire store interior) cannot be visible from the exterior of the building.

2. Transferring Between Store Locations Is Allowed

A cannabis retailer who holds more than one retail licensee will be able to transfer cannabis between their various store locations. Means of transport must be provided by the retailer, the product must be secure, and the transfer diligently recorded.

3. Exterior Signage Rules Are Strict

All retail stores will be required to have visible signage on the exterior of the business. What can be on that signage will be limited, and cannot include:

  • information about prices
  • anything appealing to youth
  • an endorsement or testimonial
  • anything lifestyle-based, emotion-based, or misleading
  • anything medical or health-focused
  • anything associated with driving, or anything with elements of danger

4. In-Store Advertising & Promotions Are Allowed

Cannabis retailers will be able to advertise and promote products within their stores, so long as the promotions are fact-based regarding cannabis or accessory characteristics or a cannabis-related service, or the advertisements promote the availability of cannabis, accessories, or a service related to cannabis.

Also, brand-based promotions of cannabis and accessories will also be permitted; a regulation that cannabis licensed producers are sure to like.

5. Retailer Loyalty Rewards Will Not Be Allowed

A cannabis retailer will not be able to provide cannabis or cannabis accessories free of charge, offer discounted prices, or “provide any other thing or benefit” as an incentive for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory.

6. Employee’s Vetting & Training Will Be Required

Employees wishing to work at a cannabis store, and the retailers looking to hire them, will have to put in some work beforehand. Ontario is requiring full background checks on all employees. Once an employee is hired, they are expected to pass provincially required training, and the retailer is expected to provide comprehensive training to ensure their workers have a full understanding of the laws and regulations pertaining to customer service.

7. Store Security Will Be Critical

All Ontario cannabis retailers will require robust security systems are put in place. These include cameras and lighting to capture 24-hour coverage of the interior and immediate exterior of their premises. Also, all cannabis must be stored securely in a location that is only accessible by staff members.

8. Data Security & POS System Certification Requirements

All retailers will have to ensure that “reasonable safeguards” around general data security are implemented.

\ Also, a retailer should only select a point of sale system that has been certified by a recognized industry certification body or organization such as PCI or ISO. Any cannabis POS system will be required to have functionality that allows for the logging of all system access and system changes.

A full report of the regulations can be found here: