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Open Dispensary

Opening A Dispensary In Canada

For those looking to open their very own marijuana store it might be a little more complicated than you think. Thankfully some of the red tape has been slashed since marijuana was legalized. For example, in Ontario the only retail outlet to sell weed was through a government website. That’s as cool as asking your parents permission if you can go out and play with your friends as an adult. Ontario residents already have to deal with purchasing alcohol and beer from government stores so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that they would do the same with weed.


Thankfully in 2019 the province decided to open up sales of marijuana to the free market and now there’s weed stores everywhere. Isn’t capitalism great?


However, not all provinces have the same laws regarding private sales of marijuana. Depending on where you live you will need to know some basic facts about marijuana sales in your province.


As an entrepreneur you will need a business plan no matter what your business is. In the cannabis industry this will show that you’ve done your research and have calculated the costs required for licensing. You will also need a business plan to apply for business loans if you are operating a brick and motor store.


Below are some basic guidelines and regulations you will need to know if you are considering opening up a dispensary in the province in which you reside. 


Provincial Laws & Regulations For Opening A Dispensary



  • As of January 2020 private retail stores can sell cannabis.
  • Any cannabis store must be 150 meters away from any school
  • Obtain a Retail Operator License
  • Apply for a Retail Store Authorization
  • Obtain a Retail Manager License
  • Only sell products from licensed producers
  • All requirements in detail can be found for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
  • Keep in mind, in Ontario there are municipalities that won’t allow any dispensaries. You’ll need to approval from the municipality where your store is located.


  • All product has to be purchased through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
  • Your store must have a security system, a receiving area that is only for the store and be at least 100 meters from a school or health care facility.
  • The business requirements are like any other business. Your store must be incorporated in the province of Alberta and have a signed lease. It can’t be mixed up with any other business though so I don’t think you’re allowed to sell poutine and joints.
  • For more info checkout the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission website.
  • All applicants must go through a background check. The cost of the background check can cost $3000.00 or more! Apparently they will refund any money that wasn’t used out of that huge fee. I guess if you’re a hermit who’s never left the province it might be a cheaper background check.


  • Previously there was a limit into how many dispensaries could open in population lower or greater than 2500. Now the market is wide open.
  • You can only operate a stand alone retail store in a municipality of 2500 or more. If you want to open a marijuana retail store in a population of less than 2500 it must be integrated with another business.
  • You are allowed to sell marijuana online but must have proof of purchase when the product is delivered.
  • You need to apply for the Cannabis Retail Store permit.
  • To find out what’s involved in obtaining and keeping a Cannabis Retail Permit check out the pdf from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority website. It’s 85 pages. I never thought reading that much about cannabis would be this boring.

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British Columbia 

  • A hybrid retail model combining both private and public options. Private retail is controlled by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch while the government owned stores fall under the Liquor Distribution Branch. The LDB also controls the wholesale operation and sale of cannabis plants. As an entrepreneur you will obviously be dealing with the LCRB.
  • Only government run retail stores can sell marijuana online.
  • You will need a retail license, a cannabis retail license and a cannabis marketing license. The cannabis marketing license is for marketing product to retailers and is only a business to business marketing license. Marketing to local customers must follow federal laws which include but are not limited to: not advertising to minors, no images of people consuming and no mascots consuming like Joe Camel.
  • Support of municipality is required
  • If you operated an illegal dispensary before legalization you won’t be penalized and you can apply for legal licenses.
  • For more information about licensing click here


  • There are two types of licenses. Age Restricted Stores and Controlled Access Stores.
  • Age restricted is a store front that does not allow minors just see the age of 19 to enter.
  • A controlled access store can carry and sell product but cannabis is not visible and age restrictions are followed.
  • To get the process started for your store you must apply for a cannabis retail store agreement with  Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) Once the Liquor and Gaming and Cannabis Authority (LGCA) is notified that you applied for a cannabis retail store agreement you can start the process of licensing with the LGCA.
  • There are no specific Manitoba marketing laws as they rely on federal laws for marketing rules.

Newfoundland & Labrador 

  • Newfoundland has adopted a private retail model but they have only approved 25 sites.
  • If you are interested in obtaining a license to sell cannabis products in Newfoundland you will have to wait until an additional number of sites are approved.
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Commission is the only online e-commerce store in the province.
  • The amount of new sites to be approved depends on how well the total revenue of all approved sites receive.
  • You can apply for a cannabis license once once the NLC issues a Request For Proposal. Once they are ready to open more dispensaries they’ll post it on their online retail website CannabisNL. If you’re interested in opening a cannabis retail store in Newfoundland be sure to check this site frequently.
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Northwest Territories 

  • The Northwest Territories cannabis market is overseen by the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC).
  • Currently there are only 5 retail locations. Similar to NFLD it’s expected to open up more location based on customer demand.
  • For more information on licensing check out the pdf from the NTLCC here.


  • Yukon has a hybrid private and public retail system for cannabis.
  • There are 4 retail locations in Yukon with more to open depending on customer demand.
  • The Yukon Liquor Corporation oversees the cannabis market.
  • Anyone can apply for a cannabis license. It can take 8-12 weeks for approval. How to apply for a license can be found on the government website here.
  • A 12 month license is $2,150.00


  • Currently there are no physical stores selling cannabis. The only way to get it is through the Tweed website.
  • Nunavut began accepting applications for private retail on June 1st 2020.
  • The government has a guide to open a retail store here
  • The application fee is $2000.00

Quebec, Nova Scotia & PEI

  • All three of these provinces are 100% controlled by the provincial governments and currently do not provide opportunities for private retailers. One can only conclude that they are socialist provinces that hate freedom.


Keep checking your respective province’s websites regarding laws for opening a dispensary. Laws are changing all the time. This industry is still new and governments will be lobbied to ease restrictions or to enforce more restrictions depending on what is happening in the market. Do your homework and create a stellar business plan.

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