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Officials promise improvements in Ontario's cannabis industry

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The retail landscape for cannabis in Ontario will start to look much different beginning in January of 2020. The lottery system implemented by the government of Premier Doug Ford has faced widespread criticism.

Much of that criticism was based on frustration.  Many cannabis advocates say it’s ludicrous that during the first year of legalized marijuana, there are only 24 legal retail outlets for a province with 14.5 million people.

By comparison, the city of Calgary has 66, Edmonton 48. Officials say Alberta could host as many as 500 cannabis retail outlets within two years.

Now, Ontario is scrapping its lottery system and overhauling its cannabis licensing system.  That means getting rid of the temporary cap on the number of private stores and cancelling the pre-qualification requirements for would be retailers.

The aim is to approve 20 new shops a month.

‘We wanted to go at a pace so that we could actually make sure that the supply was there.  And that was part of the constraint," explained Doug Downey, Ontario’s Attorney General.

"And now that the federal supply has been solved, that issue. We’re now in a position to go much wider and faster.”

There could also be another reason. Ottawa legalized cannabis just over a year ago.  In the latest fiscal year, the Ontario Cannabis Retail corporation lost $42 million, mainly because of supply shortages.

The change is welcome news to many potential retailers. They say a more open market is long overdue.  The Alcohol and Gaming commission of Ontario says it will begin accepting new applications effective January 6, with authorizations coming by the beginning of March.

WBFO’s comprehensive news coverage extends into Southern Ontario and Dan Karpenchuk is the station’s voice from the north. The award-winning reporter covers binational issues, including economic trends, the environment, tourism and transportation.