Canada’s Largest Market Welcomes the First Retail Cannabis Store

Canada is the only second country and the first G7 economy to legalize recreational cannabis last October.

The first retail cannabis store, Fire and Flower, opened in Ontario Monday 1st April, six months after legalization, attracting eager customers in Canada’s largest pot market. Though Toronto, Ottawa have already opened outlets, not such a large in scale as Ontario’s Fire and Flower.

Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, stated that they were expecting brisk sales. He also added that retail market in Ontario, which is Canada’s largest, is expected to show a high growth rate as it is the flagship store in the province, its Byward Market location in downtown Ottawa. The retailer has nine storefronts in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and has become a partner with a local accountant and a former salesman to get into the Ontario market.

Over the past six months, a patchwork of online portals and bricks and mortar stores have been established across the country, as each province has its own pot retailing framework. In Quebec, there was a crowd outside government-run stores for recreational cannabis during the first few months of sales.

After Ontario initiated selling cannabis through an online portal last October, a lottery was organized in December for prospective pot shop owners. But, only 10 of the winners were actually ready to open on time on Monday. Eric Lavoie and his partner Michael Patterson won a license to start a cannabis store in Ottawa and sold a stake to Fire and Flower for shares in the company worth more than Can$1 million (US$750,000).

According to industry sources, there is a demand for more than 2,000 storefronts in Ontario, but the province of Ontario with a population of 14 million is allowed just 25 to start.

Though sales were orderly, some expressed shock for the prices for legal cannabis, as those are nearly double the priced on the black market, the government statistical agency suggested. Fencott acknowledged that pricing is undoubtedly a challenge but he believes that with the fresh supplies coming soon, it will put downward pressure on prices.