5 Steps to Successfully Open and Operate Cannabis Retail Store(s) or a Farmgate in Ontario

5 Steps to Successfully Open and Operate Cannabis Retail Store(s) or Farmgate in Ontario

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5 Steps to Successfully Open and Operate Cannabis Retail Store(s) or a Farmgate in Ontario

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Read my five steps to successfully opening and operating a cannabis retail store(s) or a farmgate in Ontario.

I have summarized the procedure in this article. These are key points that I have discussed here that will help you understand the basics of the process and compliance requirements.

First, let’s talk about the objectives of the applicable legislation and regulations.

Instructional Goals and Objectives

Legislation and Regulations on Cannabis: Their Objectives

The federal government of Canada has approved recreational cannabis use since 2019. The Cannabis Act is Canada’s legal and regulatory framework for regulating recreational cannabis cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession. It was signed into law by the federal government with the purpose of keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors, criminal profits out of criminals’ pockets, and public health and safety in mind.

Each province and territory is responsible under the Cannabis Act for establishing its own standards on how cannabis can be sold and where retailers might be found.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is in charge of approving cannabis retail outlets, licensing qualifying retail shop owners, and regulating cannabis sales in Ontario. The AGCO is committed to the safe, responsible, and legal sale of cannabis in compliance with provincial laws. These goals are outlined in the Cannabis Licence Act, its accompanying regulations, and the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores.

According to AGCO, anyone interested in opening a retail outlet in Ontario and selling cannabis for recreational purposes must apply for the following:

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1. Retail Operator Licence (ROL)

If you want to open a cannabis retail store in Ontario, you’ll need a ROL. Anyone who meets AGCO’s qualifying criteria can apply for a retail operator licence. In brief, some of the eligibility requirements are as follows:

                                                          Age restrictions:

All personnel having direct control over the store must be at least 19 years of age.

                                                          Criminal Charges:

You must not be involved or affiliated with any criminal activity or any offence under the specific acts of Canada mentioned by AGCO.

                                              False or misleading information:

An individual will be disqualified if he has provided incorrect information In the application.

                                                                   Tax Defaulter:

Any kind of issue with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) may prevent you from obtaining this license.


The application will be denied if it is made by a corporation and more than 25% of the corporation is owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a licensed producer or their affiliate. However, a licensed producer can apply for a ROL to open a cannabis retail store (farmgate) on their premises.

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2. Retail Store Authorization (RSA)

To operate a cannabis retail store, you must obtain an RSA from AGCO. To get a retail store authorization, it must adhere to the conditions set out in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, and its regulations regarding store layout and location. Additionally, the planned store’s premises, equipment, and facilities must conform with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations.

A Licensed Producer and its affiliates may apply for a maximum of one RSA. The requested cannabis retail location must be on or within the borders of the federally licensed cannabis-producing site.

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3. Retail Manager Licence (RML)

Anyone managing a cannabis retail store or performing one or more of the following duties in a cannabis retail store must hold an RML:

  • Managing a cannabis retail store’s personnel
  • Managing cannabis sales compliance concerns
  • Overseeing or managing cannabis sales.
  • Having the authority to sign contracts or make job offers.

To be eligible for a retail manager license, a candidate must meet the qualifications outlined in the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations, as well as any other applicable Act or law indicated by AGCO.

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4. Compliance Requirements to Operate a Store

All cannabis retail store licenses in Ontario are required to comply with the standards outlined in the Cannabis Retail Store Registrar’s Standards Licensees must also follow all applicable laws and regulations, such as the Cannabis Control Act of 2017, the Cannabis Licence Act of 2018, and Ontario Regulation 468/18.

In brief, I’ll talk about some of the compliance requirements to operate a cannabis store.

                                                 1. General Standards

  • Licensees must ensure that all personnel follow the law and act with honesty and integrity.
  • The AGCO inspectors should be able to review a retail manager license at the store upon request.
  • The retail store manager should be on-site and oversee all activities in the Cannabis retail store and ensure they are in compliance with the standards set by the registrar.
  • Licensed retail operators must notify the registrar of any changes or modifications to their retail shop operations, as well as any people or entities gaining a financial benefit from the sale of cannabis or its accessories, within the time frame provided by the AGCO or the Registrar.

                                              2. Physical Security of The Store

  • AGCO mandates that all activities in the retail store be observed and recorded at all times by a secure, high-resolution surveillance system.
  • The video footage must be kept for at least 30 days and be available for review by AGCO inspectors upon request.
  • It is the licensee’s obligation to ensure that all cannabis is safely stored and only accessible to authorized staff.
  • A licensee must ensure that cannabis is handled properly and in accordance with the registrar’s guidelines in the retail outlet.

                                                 3. Destruction of Cannabis

Destruction of cannabis declared ineligible to be sold should be destructed according to the mentioned standards.

                                                     4. Secure Transportation

Retail store licensed operators should securely transport back to the OCRC any unsold recalled product and maintain documents.

                                                    5. Minors and Prohibited Individuals

It is also the responsibility of the licensed retail store operator to take reasonable measures to ensure that cannabis or cannabis accessories are not purchased by an individual under 19 years.

                                                           6. Advertising and Promotion

  • Retail cannabis licensees are required to affix signage clearly identifying their business on the exterior of the authorized store.
  • Licensees should also comply with the set standards with regards to advertising mentioned in all applicable Acts and regulations for cannabis.
  • Licensees may not provide cannabis or cannabis accessories free of charge or provide any other thing or benefit, as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory
  • Licensees may not accept or request material inducements from Licensed Producers, their representatives, or suppliers of cannabis accessories.

                                                          7. Responsible Use

Licensees must ensure that responsible use of cannabis information is available to their customers. The responsible use document provided by Health Canada should be made available for the customers.

                                                             8. Record-Keeping Requirements

  • The retail licensed operator is required to retain records of all documents for at least three years mentioned in the Cannabis Retail Store Registrar’s Standards as well as all applicable laws and regulations, such as the Cannabis Control Act of 2017, the Cannabis Licence Act of 2018, and Ontario Regulation 468/18.
  • Licensees must provide reasonable data security and integrity safeguards, including POS and e-commerce systems.
  • These systems must be certified by a recognized industry certification authority (e.g., PCI, ISO) and include logging functionality to track all system access and changes.

                                 9. Temporary Curbside Pick-Up and Delivery Requirements

• Licensees must guarantee that the monitoring system clearly captures curbside cannabis pick-up.

• Before delivering or curbside picking up cannabis to anybody under the age of 25, the Licensee or an employee of the Licensee must verify their age with a form of identification prescribed under subsection 7 (2) of the Cannabis Control Act, 2017.

• The Licensee or an employee of the Licensee must distribute cannabis between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.

• Cannabis retailers must verify that cannabis withdrawn for delivery from an approved store was requested by a consumer.

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5. Fees and Payments

There are applicable fees required for all the applications and Licenses. See below the fee breakdown:


• If you are a sole proprietor, you do not need to get an RML for that store



The above blog post is provided for informational purposes only and has not been tailored to your specific circumstances. This blog post does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice and may not be relied upon as such.

Please be mindful. Authorized regulatory authorities may change or revise the regulation under review at any time.

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How we can Help:

If you are an adult Ontarian and wish to apply for a retail Cannabis store or if you are a Cannabis licensed producer and like to have a farmgate store within your facility boundaries. Contact us, we can help with all steps of Licence application and compliance.

                                                                       Written By: Mussarat Fatima                                                                                                                            President at MF License & Regulatory Consultants

                                                                      Website: https://mflrc.com/

                                                                       Contact: info@mflrc.com

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Mussarat Fatima

Mussarat Fatima, President, and owner of MF Cannabis License and Regulatory Consultants has more than twenty years of experience in Quality Assurance, Quality Control, and Regulatory Affairs within the pharmaceutical, Food and Cannabis industries. She has a Master’s Degree in Food Sciences and Biochemistry; in addition to this, she also has a diploma in pharmaceutical Quality Assurance, Regulatory Affairs, and Quality Control. Also, she has completed several certifications specifically in Cannabis Quality Assurance, Regulatory Affairs, and Facility management from recognized institutes in Canada.