Ontario celebrates their 1,000 cannabis stores

| Staff

Ontario recently licensed their 1,000th cannabis store, 6 of Spade, in Toronto. 

The achievement, announced on the OCS.ca this week, celebrates numerous cannabis retail milestones in Canada’s most populated province, that went from just 24 cannabis stores first authorized via lottery in April 2019 to 1,000 late last month. 

Amiga Wheatle, the owner of 6 of Spade, said she was incredibly excited to learn her store crossed this threshold. 

“Knowing there are so few Black-owned stores, I feel privileged and humbled to be able to add our voices to that representation,” she told the OCS.ca. “Hopefully it will open up more opportunities for Black people to get involved in the regulated cannabis space.”

According to the OCS.ca, Amiga and her husband, Jeremiah, opened 6 of Spade on August 28, 2021, with an all-day celebration that included a DJ, educational workshops and sweet swag giveaways. They’re focused on making the 700-square-foot retail space a friendly place for their Little Portugal customers. 

“A lot of our family and friends are part of the Rastafari culture, so smoking has always been a part of our lives,” she says. “But we’ve always understood it to be about more than just getting high.”

The Wheatles also want to try to address some of the historical racial inequities around cannabis policing through their hiring practices. “We want folks who may be having a difficult time getting jobs because of a minor drug charge on their records from the prohibition past to know that if we have an opening, don’t be shy to apply!” Amiga says. “We’re not going to discriminate. That’s important to us.”

The OCS is celebrating several other milestones, such as Ganjika House, Brampton, the first store in Peel Region, Bodega, Toronto, one of the first Black-owned stores in Ontario, Utopia Cannabis, Toronto, serving, among others, the Korean community in the city, Rama Cannabis, Orillia, Ont. One of Ontario’s six First Nations–owned stores, Off the Stem, Kapuskasing, the Northernmost store in Ontario.

With such an influx of new retailers, though, many, including the OCS, have warned that competition and consolidation could mean many stores closing in the coming months and years. In some parts of Ontario, cannabis stores are nearly as common as Starbucks, sometimes opening very close to each other. 

With each retailer essentially offering the same products at more or less the same prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult for some retailers to stand out to consumers. 

Sasha Soeterik, the owner at Flower Pot in Toronto, who transitioned her store from the illicit market to the legal market last year, says running a cannabis retail store is hard work

“This is not a licence to print money,” says Soeterik. “Everyone is asking me if I’m rich yet. I just worked every hour under the sun for the entire long weekend.”

Although she’s excited to be a part of the legal market, she says more needs to be done to encourage others like her to transition from the black market to the legal one. But with so many stores opening up in Ontario, she advises potential retailers to plan their timing accordingly. 

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to give up their illegal business just yet. Maybe wait until about 300 stores close first.”

Ontario has the most retailers in Canada, with over 1,000 now authorized, followed by Alberta, with over 675. BC has nearly 370 licensed retailers listed as open, both public and private. Manitoba lists just over 110, Saskatchewan has just over 100. Quebec has 77, Nova Scotia has 33, as does Newfoundland, New Brunswick lists 20, PEI has 4. The Northwest Territories has 7, Yukon 5 and Nunavut 1.

Newfoundland recently announced new retail locations, including drive-throughs and New Brunswick recently announced they are ready to begin issuing farmgate retail licenses for producers. Ontario started their own farmgate retail earlier this year.