Ontario’s fourth farmgate store, Bullrider, takes a unique approach to their licence

| David Brown

Ontario authorized their fourth cannabis farmgate location in May to a producer and retailer taking a unique approach to the licence.

Ontario’s three other farmgate locations were first operating as federally licensed cannabis producers before getting the retail licence.

Taking a different approach, Bullrider—located in Brampton—opened a retail cannabis store late last year at the site of their production facility while waiting on their cannabis cultivation and processing licences which were issued earlier this year. 

Then, on May 25, Bullrider officially received their farmgate authorization from the AGCO. However, because they are still waiting on approval from the OCS through their vendor approval and product call time frames, customers won’t be able to buy products directly from their facility until late this year or early next. 

“We actually built the store first, before we had a federal licence,” explains Stephen Batthany, Director Of Operations at Robes Inc, the parent company of Bullrider. “The AGCO allowed us to get a licence as a normal store, with a condition that once we got our (federal) licence, we could go through the process of flipping it over.”

Bullrider does have products on the market, sold through a partner who was already approved for sale in Ontario. Getting their own processing and sales licence, as well as a farmgate licence was a step towards having more control over the supply chain, says Batthany.

“One of the main reasons we were interested in the farmgate store…we really wanted to have a little more self control in terms of being able to cut deals directly with the boards and be paid directly.” 

It will also allow Bulrider to better meet consumer expectations, with a unique product not necessarily available in other stores.

“(I want) to reduce the amount of time from the perfect moment of consumption to it being in the consumer’s hands, and the only real path we could see for that was farmgate,” he continues. “That’s another main reason we’re interested in it.” 

A cannabis farmgate retail location operates like any other licensed retailer in Ontario but has the ability to sell its own product on-site. This provides for a quicker turnaround time from harvest to shelf, since products are not required to be sent to the provincial distribution warehouse run by the Ontario Cannabis Store. 

Instead, products grown and processed on-site can then be stored on-site and released for sale directly into the store. Retailers can order products from other producers through the traditional provincial distribution system, as well. 

Bullrider’s store currently carries an array of products from other Canadian producers. By being able to also offer their own unique, freshly-packaged cultivars like Afghani Bullrider, Batthany expects to be able to draw in consumers looking for something different than most other cannabis stores in Ontario.

“The intention really is to put the product first. Getting something to consumers that was packaged just a few days ago is the dream.

“If I could wave a magic wand and change one regulation, it would be to go back to the deli-style dispensary of the grey market days, because that’s really the only way to get away from the THC conversation. If you can go in and see the product, smell it, look at it, you don’t care what the COA’s are, if it looks awesome and is intriguing, you’ll want to try it.”

According to the AGCO, as of July 18, 2022, 25 producers have applied for Retail Operator Licence (ROL), the first stage of the province’s farmgate licensing, and 14 have submitted a request for a Retail Store Authorization (RSA).

The three other farmgate stores currently licensed and operating in Ontario are Thrive Cannabis, located in Simcoe, The Royal Cannabis Supply Co, located near Humber College, and Station House Cannabis, in St. Thomas.

New Brunswick also currently has three licensed cannabis farmgate stores. British Columbia is expected to release their own farmgate regulations later this year.