Finished buds sit in a tray at the CannTrust Holdings Inc. cannabis production facility in Fenwick, Ont. Galit Rodan / Bloomberg
Windsor is going green.
The city’s first legal bricks and mortar cannabis outlet will likely open downtown in the next few months after a local applicant was chosen in the provincial retail store lottery.
“I think this is a really good thing for downtown and for the city,” said Brian Yeomans, chairman of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association. “Once they’ve passed all the criteria and they fill out all the permits, I think it’s a fantastic step. This is going to help combat against black market marijuana. It’ll help alleviate some of the strain on our medical system. I think it’s a fantastic thing to be in the downtown core.”
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission said there were 4,864 eligible applicants provincewide. Just 42 were chosen Tuesday in Ontario’s second lottery draw for retail stores. They can apply for one store each.
Another eight stores will be located on First Nations reserves, but they are being approved through a separate process.
The winners of this week’s lottery must still file applications, fulfill various requirements, and obtain permits. But the province said Wednesday the stores will likely start opening by October.
Among the lottery winners was Kyriakos G. Anastasiadis, who wants to put a cannabis retail store at 545 Ouellette Ave. in Windsor.
London, which already has three cannabis stores, was selected for two more in the second lottery. Robert Chomiak is proposing a store a 1310 Fanshawe Park Rd. W., and Noah Soberano is planning a store at 1135 Richmond St. Chatham was not selected for any stores.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who opposed allowing pot stores in the city, said he will now focus on ensuring the area around the new one will be safe.
“It’s legal in Canada and we all have to adapt and adjust to what the new landscape looks like,” he said. “So my goal will be working with police to make sure that the right securities are in place around that facility. We know the first facility will be very busy. Based on experiences in other municipalities this will be a very busy location in terms of traffic and some of the unwanted activities that other municipalities have seen around their stores.”
That unwanted activity includes loitering and panhandling, he said.
“They’re issues that make many people feel uncomfortable in the best of times, and certainly we want to make sure that petty crime doesn’t go up in and around that area as well,” said Dilkens. “Police will be on top of it. They’re prepared.”
Yeomans said he’s not worried there will be any negative impacts.
“From what I’ve seen, these are not seedy shops,” he said. “They’re clean, well-run establishments. I think what they have planned will be exciting and I think a very respectful location.”
There are also potential economic benefits, he said.
“People are going to want to develop around it,” said Yeomans. “From what I understand from other locations in the province that have opened them, it’s generated interest from other businesses.”
“It could potentially increase the walking traffic downtown. I’ve said on many occasions that walking traffic is something that the downtown needs more than anything else.”
Dilkens questioned if the economic impact would be that significant.
“I would have said yes on the tourism front had Michigan not legalized both medicinal and recreational cannabis,” he said. “But now that it’s legal in Michigan, I don’t suspect you’re going to get a lot of people crossing the river to come to the City of Windsor to buy marijuana when they’ll be able to get it right at home.”
The 42 individuals and businesses chosen in the lottery have until August 28 to apply for a cannabis Retail Operator Licence and a Retail Store Authorization.
The province will then do a full eligibility and licensing review. The AGCO stressed it will only licence applicants and authorize stores that meet all legal and regulatory requirements.
To even be considered in the lottery, the applicants had to meet several “pre-qualification requirements” including a confirmation they have the means to obtain $250,000 in cash or cash equivalents. They must also be able to provide a letter of credit for $50,000 within five days of being notified they were selected, along with confirmation they have secured a suitable retail space that will be available by October.
The province is distributing the store licences regionally with 11 chosen for the west region, including Windsor and London. There are seven in the east region and five in the north.
Toronto was allotted another 13 stores, the most of any region. Another six went to the Greater Toronto Area region, which is categorized separately.
After the AGCO receives the applications, residents will have a chance to give written submissions if they believe the store locations go against public interest.
The first lottery took place in January with a cap of 25 stores. No Windsor applicants were chosen in the first round.