The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) published on Wednesday morning detailed requirements for those hoping to operate retail cannabis stores in Canada’s most populous province. With upwards of 1,000 locations expected to open across Ontario starting in April, 2019, the AGCO confirmed to Cannabis Professional it was still planning to begin accepting applications on Dec. 17. Below are some of the most notable aspects of the requirements.
EX-CONS MIGHT BE UNWELCOME AS RETAIL CANNABIS WORKERS
While the AGCO requirements state that license holders must obtain criminal background checks from employees as part of the hiring process, the agency does not specify whether a clean record is required for employment. “It is unclear whether [employers] need to use the results of those checks in some fashion, or prohibit employment for those with certain offenses,” said Harrison Jordan, a Toronto-based lawyer specializing in cannabis. Caryma Sa’d, another cannabis-focused lawyer in Toronto, expressed concern that the background check requirement could mean “many people who have grassroots involvement in the cannabis industry are going to be unfairly excluded from the industry they helped to shape and create.”
SMELL JARS ALLOWED
Among the biggest questions surrounding Ontario cannabis retail regulations was whether customers would be able to see and smell products before making a purchasing decision. So-called “smell jars” are common in retail locations currently open or under development across Canada and the AGCO says Ontario stores will have them as well. Stores may use what the agency calls “sensory display containers to allow patrons to see and smell cannabis,” as long as those containers are locked and tamper-proof and contain products that the store owner purchased from their own inventory through a point-of-sale system.
DESTROY THE BAD BUDS… SOMEHOW
Among the most potential problematic aspects of the newly published requirements relate to how stores deal with cannabis products that are not eligible for sale or return to the provincially-owned distributor, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. At least once every month, stores must destroy that cannabis in a way that complies with local environmental rules and that “does not result in any individual being exposed to cannabis smoke or cannabis vapour,” the AGCO said. The destruction can either be carried out by the store itself, in which case it must be captured by the required surveillance system and supervised by a licensed manager or owner, or it can be carried out by a third party. The fact that “third parties can be hired to perform the destruction” is interesting to Magdalena Fish, another cannabis-focused Toronto lawyer, “because there is no licensing process that I am aware of for companies specializing in the destruction of cannabis.”
NO DEALS ALLOWED
Bargain hunters beware, as the AGCO requirements clearly state stores “may not provide cannabis or cannabis accessories free of charge, or provide any other thing or benefit, including a discounted price, as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory.” Stores will also be prohibited from accepting anything that might quality as “material inducements” from licensed cannabis producers.