This story has been updated with comment from the Ontario government.
The Ontario government is denying reports that it will be announcing 50 new retail licences for cannabis stores imminently.
A report in the Globe and Mail by business columnist Doug Willis, said the Ford government is expected to announce “plans for at least 50 new cannabis outlets, according to sources close to the government.” A press release issued by Lift, a cannabis start-up and media which is hosting a massive cannabis expo in Toronto this week, repeated the claim.
“It’s not true,” Robert Gibson, press secretary for finance minister Vic Fedeli, told VICE. “We do not have any plans at this moment in time to offer more licences.”
Gibson said the report is “pure speculation.” He said the government would “love” to announce more weed stores but isn’t ready to do so right now.
Ontario has thus far issued 25 private retail weed licences through an arbitrary lottery system. However, as many have pointed out, that number is nowhere near enough to meet demand. More than 80 illicit dispensaries existed in Toronto alone prior to the police crackdown in 2016.
In the meantime, Ontario, a province of nearly 14 million people has handily been outpaced by Alberta. Ontario has only 25 retail weed licences while Alberta, population 4.3 million, has issued more than 100.
The province previously said it wouldn’t have a cap on the number of stores allowed but later changed its mind due to the country-wide weed shortage.
Gibson said the government still isn’t “satisfied” with the supply of dried bud, which has improved recently.
Gibson said he did not know if the next round of licensees will be selected through a lottery system. He also did not know how many of the 25 licensees had actually opened stores.