The Cannabis Council of Canada has urged the Ontario government to accelerate the rollout of its fledgling cannabis retail market.

The council is the national organization of Canada’s licensed producers and it aims to promote the growth and integrity of the industry. Board members include representatives of Aphria, Supreme Cannabis Company, Tilray, Organigram, Aurora, 48North, Cronos, Canopy Growth Corp., HEXO Corp. and Sundial Growers Inc.

They are concerned by the slow rollout in Ontario, which is lagging well behind other provinces and territories.

It is almost a year since Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, but only 10 of the 49 census divisions in Ontario have a retail store selling cannabis. It equates to 0.14 stores per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas Newfoundland & Labrador has established 4.77 stores per 100,000 residents.

“The Ontario government has a responsibility to act swiftly and increase the retail environment to improve access to legal cannabis products,” said Megan McCrae, board chair of the Cannabis Council of Canada and vice president marketing at Aphria. “The reality the industry faced in April is in stark contrast to where the adult use cannabis market stands in Ontario today, and it’s time to move quickly.”

Last month Ontario drew 42 winners in its second cannabis retail lottery, while a further eight licenses were handed out to First Nation reserves. That move is designed to triple the size of the cannabis retail industry in Canada’s most populous province.

The province permitted an initial 25 stores after adult-use cannabis was legalized at a federal level in October 2018. However, they were slow in opening due to supply shortages and a provincial election.

Yet the Cannabis Council of Canada argued that its members are now capable of supplying hundreds of additional retail stores across the province.

Alberta imposed a moratorium on granting new licenses due to a supply shortage, but that was lifted in May and the store count surged past the 250 mark last month. But Ontario’s market is more complex due to the lottery system, which controversially yielded three winners on the same street during last month’s draw.

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