MedMen Enterprises, the largest cannabis retail chain in the U.S. is gunning to enter the Ontario cannabis market, in light of the province’s sudden decision to allow privately-owned stores to sell cannabis.
“There are 14.4 million people in Ontario, so it’s a premier market to us. MedMen will definitely apply for a license as soon as we can, because we want to open up stores in Toronto,” Vahan Ajamian, MedMen’s Managing Director of Analyst Relations told VICE News.
Ajamian points out that for MedMen, where they end up locating their stores is the key to gaining a first-mover advantage in the retail space. “We have stores in West Hollywood and on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, so where we open our first store in Toronto is going to be really important — the Queen West district would be a good option.”
Med Men, although based in California, is publicly-listed in Canada, trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange. The company has a total of 19 licensed facilities in the U.S., spread across cultivation, manufacturing and retail. In March, MedMen joined forces with Canadian cannabis producer Cronos Group, with the goal of jointly developing branded products and opening stores in provinces where private retailers would be allowed to operate.
Yesterday, VICE News reported that the Ontario government would abandon its exclusive monopoly on the sale and distribution of cannabis in the province, by allowing private retailers with a license to sell weed.
The news was greeted with considerable enthusiasm by cannabis activists, some of whom have long operated illegal dispensaries in the province. Their hope is that these dispensaries will be folded into the private retail model.
But that remains unclear. “The Ontario government could take an approach like B.C. where dispensaries can sell weed, or they could go the Alberta route, where if you previously flouted the law you won’t be granted a retail license,” said Trina Fraser, co-managing partner at Brazeau Seller Law. According to reports in the Globe and Mail, Ontario is likely to adopt the Alberta model.
In the meantime, it is companies like MedMen, who have years of experience in cannabis retail are likely to emerge winners from a private retail model. As for potential competition from Big Weed — licensed producers like Canopy Growth and Aurora — Ajamian brushes that prospect aside.
“Sure, some of the LPs are going to come up with their own branded stores. But look, we’re the biggest chain in California, and we have a very long history of operating in different jurisdictions, so we’re really the company with the right expertise to operate in Ontario,” he said.