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Sole proprietors will move through Ontario’s cannabis Retail Operator Licence application process more quickly than companies or more complex business partnerships, according to an AGCO spokesman.

“The reality is, if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re going to move through quickly, assuming everything else is in order in your background, because the complexity of the file isn’t there,” said AGCO spokesman Raymond Kahnert, referring to the application process for Retail Operator authorization that will begin on Jan. 6, 2020.

“If you’re a corporation with multiple partners and levels, each one of those has to be vetted, and information has to be queried and provided and that’s going to take longer," he said.

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In what order will applications be processed? Does it matter if an application is in at 12:01 a.m. on Jan 6. or not until the next morning? How will the timeline proceed after Store Authorization applications are submitted on March 2?

Here’s what we know about Ontario’s new cannabis retail licencing process after speaking to Mr. Kahnert:

Is there an advantage to submitting an application at 12:01 a.m. on Jan 6?

“There is no advantage, we’ll likely be reminding folks of that. Again this isn’t a first past the post. Yes, if someone is interested, now is the time to open an iAGCO account. That can be done today, where all your information and your contact and your e-mail, it’s done. So whether it’s 12:01 a.m. or 10 a.m. the next morning, you have an account and you commence immediately, and you submit your payments, and you begin the process in a timely way," Mr. Kahnert said.

What applications will be processed first?

"The fact is, some of those applications will be simple... There will be sole proprietors, simple businesses, more straight forward, and those will go through at a quicker pace, it’s just reality. Those that have more layers and more corporate players and partners, that’s going to take longer because those partners have to be vetted, questions are asked, so those applications for retail operations will take longer; so right from the getgo, some will proceed quicker than others.”

When it comes to March 2, who will be allowed to move forward at that point?

“March 2 is when those who have received their retail operator licence can officially submit their request for a retail store authorization. Of course that has to be in a community that has opted in; it has to be in a location that meets all local zoning requirements; if all is in order in that application, then it will move to the public notice period rather expeditiously. In other words the sign goes up on the building and of course it's posted on our website, and the 15 day public notice period begins.

"Then depending on the number of submissions, is going to determine how long the authorization process will take… As an example, in the Windsor location for the 15 days, there was only two [public submissions]. Others, just by virtue of being more contentious, there might be a dozen or 20.... [The applicant] has five days to respond.

“So if we move into April, we’ve got Easter and the long-weekend is in there, it’s difficult to project when the approval will be decreed and issued to the applicant so that they can have the first of the two opening inspections, and they can order their product from OCS. The second inspection is one that happens days before the doors open. That’s a physical: everything is in order, everything works, the cameras are active, the secure area [is ready].”

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How much capacity does the AGCO have to process what will likely be hundreds or thousands of applications?

“The AGCO has had, and is beefing up again, a team of eligibility officers…. Much like the previous allocation, the overview and the eligibility review is thorough, it’s expeditious, but it’s working. There are multiple people who will work on a file, and we certainly hope that applicants will respond in a timely way.”

Are individuals allowed to sell or transfer their licences?

“Cannabis licences are not transferable. If a corporation wanted to buy a sole proprietor’s “business," the corporation must apply for a Retail Operator Licence and receive their own Retail Store Authorization for the location. The AGCO would then approve a complete product transfer process - from the previous store owner to the new in collaboration with the OCS.”

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