Ontario will triple the size of its cannabis retail industry when it issues 50 new retail licenses next month.

The province permitted an initial 25 stores after adult-use cannabis was legalized at a federal level in October 2018. It received 16,905 license applications and selected the winners via a lottery. Many of those lucky winners have teamed up with major cannabis companies and they have been opening stores throughout the year.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has now announced that it will hold a second lottery on Aug. 20, 2019, to select the next 42 businesses that can apply to open cannabis retail stores. The results will be announced the following day.

A further eight licenses will be available for stores on First Nations reserves, taking the number of marijuana retailers in the province to 75. These licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis and the application period begins on July 31.

The stores are expected to begin opening in October 2019. The initial 25 stores were all supposed to open by Apr. 1, 2018, but some are still to open.

Anyone hoping to open one of the 50 new stores must have the capacity to obtain $250,000 in cash or cash equivalent and the ability to secure a suitable retail space no later than October 2019.

Applicants must submit their interest between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, and ACPO will then perform a preliminary review of the submissions. The results of the lottery will be published on Aug. 21 and the retailers must then enter a wholesale agreement with Ontario Cannabis Store, secure products to fill their shelves and pass AGCO pre-opening inspection.

AGCO expects stores to begin opening in October.

Licensed producer Emerald Health Therapeutics, Inc. was among the firms to commend the Government of Ontario’s decision to expand the province’s network of brick-and-mortar stores.

“After the first 25 stores began to open in Ontario, the industry saw overall sales of cannabis basically double,” said chief executive Avtar Dhillon.

He added that recreational cannabis consumers prefer going into a physical store and talking to “educated, savvy budtenders” rather than ordering online.

The Ontario ombudsman has received more than 2,400 complaints about the provincial government’s online cannabis store since recreational marijuana was legalized.

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