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How To Choose the Perfect Location for Your Cannabis Business

Last updated: October 30, 2019
Disclaimer: This guide is for information purposes only, and should should not be considered legal advice.
 

Cannabis Retail Location Guide

piinpoint cannabis analytics


Retailers know a location is key to the success of their business, and it’s no different for cannabis retailers. However, the challenge is whether you can find that great location that also fits with the myriad of rules set out by both the province and that particular municipality. 

So, how do you find that great location with the right demographic that also meets those requirements and limits? PiinPoint takes the guesswork out of that decision and makes it easy for you to find the right location.

There are a few things aspiring store operators need to know first; this is complicated retail. Yes, Canada legalized cannabis in October 2018, but the Cannabis Act gives provinces the ability to determine the method of distribution and sales. Which means each province has its own rules. In some, you can’t even open a retail location, the province has a monopoly. In some, the government is the only supplier as well as the only retailer allowed. On top of that, some provinces have given municipalities the authority to set their own rules, some having opted out of having retail cannabis stories entirely.

These regulations may restrict where a retailer can open a new brick-and-mortar location, what products they can sell and how they can promote their business. Calgary recently rejected 105 proposals for non-cannabis retail stores because they were too close to schools, daycares or other cannabis stores.

The regulatory barriers are certainly not easily defined. What is clear though, is that there are not enough brick-and-mortar stores to meet consumer demand in Canada. Currently, there is about 2.1 retail location for every 100,000 Canadians over the age of 18. In comparison, there’s 58.5 alcohol retailer for every 100,000 people over the age of 18. In other words, lots of room for expansion. Not to mention that an in-person experience tends to be the preferred mode of purchase;  many cannabis consumers are wary of buying online given the traceability of e-commerce transactions. Legal doesn’t mean all stigma has been erased about cannabis.

So, to help cannabis store operators keep all these rules straight, we’ve compiled this guide to help you out. 

Let’s start with which provinces allow private retailers and those that don’t. 

105 cannabis retail applications rejected in Calgary because they were too close to schools, daycares or other cannabis retailers.

Where can a private retailer operate a cannabis store in Canada?

These are the provinces that are open to retailer-owned cannabis stores or have a combination of government-owned and privately-owned stores.

What are the details and nuances that apply to each province?

Each province has its own set of rules about where retail cannabis stores can be located, however, there are a few commonalities. 
Most provinces don’t want cannabis stores close to schools, daycares or health care facilities. They want stores to be self-contained, don’t want then to have outdoor spaces, or have a drive-thru. A lot of that is common sense, but the details change for each province and sometimes each municipality. So let’s take a look at how it works, starting with those provinces that allow private retailers.


Ontario Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Ontario

Ontario cannabis stores

The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp. which operates under the name Ontario Cannabis Store operates the only legal online marijuana sales for the province and serves as a wholesale distribution to licensed privately operated retailers.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) regulates and licenses privately run recreational cannabis stores.

In Ontario, 77 municipalities out of 413 opted out of allowing cannabis retail stores to operate in their municipalities.

A few large municipalities have opted out including:

  • Brantford
  • Markham
  • Mississauga
  • Milton
  • Newmarket
  • Oakville
  • Pickering
  • Richmound Hill
  • Vaughn
  • Whitby

Current number of cannabis stores in Ontario:

Ontario is the most populous province, but not when it comes to cannabis stores. Currently, there are 23 stores that are open, with 2 more pending approval, which amounts to 0.2 stores per 100,000 residents over the age of 18.  For comparison, there are 24 alcohol retailers for every 100,000 Ontario residents over the age of 18.

 42 additional retail authorizations were allocated via a lottery and will start opening soon, and 8 addition authorizations will be made available on First Nation reserves.

There has been no announcement about additional locations.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for Ontario:

  • It can’t be within 150 metres from the property line of a school.
  • Must be enclosed by walls separating it from other commercial businesses or activities.
  • It can’t be entered from or passed through in order to access any other commercial establishment or activity, except for a common area of an enclosed shopping mall.
  • It can’t include an outdoor area. 
  • All doors must be secure.
  • Cannabis and accessories can not be visible from outside the store.
  • The store must have a clear location for a sign outside the business.
  • The public must not have access to locations where cannabis is stored or received. 
  • The store must have an HD 24/7 video surveillance system, with a minimum of 30-day backup, that records the entrances, exits, point of sale, receiving area, sales floor, cannabis storage area.

Resources for Ontario cannabis retailers:

Alberta Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Alberta

Alberta cannabis stores

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) handles distribution, oversight and licensing. It is also the regulator for privately run recreational cannabis stores. Retail stores are privately operated while the government operates online sales.

Current number of cannabis stores in Alberta:

Alberta currently has 311 cannabis retail stores or 9.1 stores for every 100,000 adults over the age of 18 in Alberta.
There is no cap on the number of licenses for stores.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for Alberta:

  • Each municipality may have different rules about where a cannabis retail store can open, and you may need municipal approval before getting a license.
  • It can’t be within 100 meters of a provincial health care facility, school or where a school will be built in the future.
  • The location needs a separate entrance and can’t be accessed from another business.
  • A store must-have, a sales floor, receiving area for product, secure storage area.
  • Cannabis and accessories can not be visible from outside the store.
  • No drive-thru.
  • Can’t sell alcohol or tobacco at the same location.
  • The store must have a HD 24/7 video surveillance system, with a minimum of 60-day backup, that records the entrances, exits, staff area, point of sale, receiving area, sales floor, cannabis storage area.
  • There must be a professionally installed and moistened alarm system, with a panic button at the point of sale.
  • All doors must be secure.
  • Clear signage with the business name must be displayed at all doors that the public can access.
  • You need a signed lease or a certificate of title to obtain a license.
  • Owners with a 10% stake or more need to pass a background check.
  • You must be incorporated in Alberta and be separate from any other businesses with a sole focus on retail.

Resources for Alberta cannabis retailers:

British Columbia Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in BC

BC cannabis stores

BC has a mixed retail model with the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) oversees both government-owned and privately-owned retail locations and handles online sales.

Current number of cannabis stores in British Columbia:

Presently, there are 157 retail cannabis stores. There’s 3.7 store for every 100,000 adults.
The province has not set a cap on the number of retail cannabis licenses, but has restricted the number of locations one licensee can own or have an investment into at eight.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for BC:

  • The store must be a self-contained operation and not part of another business.
  • If the store is located in a space with shared common areas outside the store, like a shopping mall. Then the store must have a predominate separate entrance where customers can access the store without going through other business or common areas.
  • Can not have cannabis products visible from outside the store.
  • The store must have a clear location for a sign outside the business.
  • Secure storage area on-site that can not be accessed by any other businesses.

Resources for BC cannabis retailers:

Saskatchewan Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan cannabis stores

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) control authorities regulate private cannabis stores.
Each municipality can sets its own rules regarding if and where a retail location can open.

Current number of cannabis stores in Saskatchewan

There are currently 35 stores open out of 51 retail permits across 32 municipalities and First Nation communities.
There’s 4.3 store for every 100,000 adults.
On October 29, 2019, the Saskatchewan government announced they would remove the cap on cannabis retail permits. This would be a gradual process, starting in April 2020, when the SLGA will start to accept applications for stores that are hoping to operate communities with a population of less than 2,500, or communities that were previously eligible for permits but did not proceed. Starting in September, 2020 SLGA will begin accepting applications for stores in all communities in the province.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for Saskatchewan

  • Municipalities have the ability to set specific location rules, including opt-in out of allowing them to operate in their communities.
  • Some municipalities restrict locations based on their proximity to other cannabis stores, schools, daycare or other particular facilities.
  • Must have a standalone storefront. 
  • There must be a professionally installed and moistened alarm system, with a panic button at the point of sale.
  • The store must have a HD 24/7 video surveillance system, with a minimum of 60-day backup, that records the entrances, exits, staff area, point of sale, receiving area, sales floor, cannabis storage area.
  • All doors must be secure.
  • The store must have a secure storage room or safe.

Resources for Saskatchewan cannabis retailers:

Manitoba Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Manitoba

Manitoba cannabis stores

The Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) licenses retailers to ensure they are in compliance with all provincial and municipal requirements. Retailers can only buy cannabis from the Manitoba Liquor and Lottery Corp, and can sell goods in-store and online.
The province ran a request for proposal process to select a limited number of companies who are able to open stores in the province. The government has stated that their goal is to move to an open market, but no timelines have been set to allow additional companies to enter the market.

Current number of cannabis stores in Manitoba

There are currently 27 stores open, or 2.5 stores for every 100,000 adults in the province.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for Manitoba

  • Each municipality can sets its own rules regarding where a retail location can open.
  • Stores must have their physical store assets, including security system, cannabis storage and display fixtures and other government approvals, such as municipal occupancy permits, in place before the LGCA will issue a license.
  • Cannabis can’t be sold where alcohol is sold.
  • All store areas must be under video surveillance.

Resources for Manitoba cannabis retailers:

Newfoundland and Labrador Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Newfoundland and Labrador

Manitoba cannabis stores

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) regulates private retail stores and operates online sales.

Current number of cannabis stores in Newfoundland and Labrador

There are 25 stores open currently. The NLC will decide if additional locations will be allowed to open in the future.
There’s 5.8 store for every 100,000 adults.

Specific cannabis retail location requirements for Newfoundland and Labrador

  • There are 4 different licensing tiers
  • Tier 1: stand-alone store, that is not connected to any other businesses
  • Tier 2: stand-alone store within another retail establishment that is not a cannabis store, pharmacy or bar
  • Tier 3: a business within another retail establishment that is not a pharmacy or bar and has a separate point of sale system
  • Tier 4: sales of cannabis occurs at the same counter that is used by the retail establishment that is not a pharmacy or bar
  • All store areas must be under video surveillance and have a security system.
  • The store must have a secure storage room or safe.

Resources for Newfoundland and Labrador cannabis retailers:

What Canadian Provinces have government-controlled monopolies over cannabis stores?

These provinces have decided not to have private retailers for now. 

Manitoba cannabis stores

New Brunswick Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in New Brunswick

The Cannabis NB is the government-owned retailer for stores and online, and the only legal retailer.

Current number of cannabis stores in New Brunswick

There are currently 20 stores, 3.1 store for every 100,000 adults.

Quebec cannabis stores

Quebec Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Quebec

Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) is the only retailer who can sell cannabis in stores or online and it is owned by the government.

Current number of cannabis stores in Quebec

There are currently 24 stores, 0.3 store for every 100,000 adults.

Quebec cannabis stores

Nova Scotia Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Nova Scotia

The government-owned Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. is the only authorized retailer who can sell cannabis in stores or online.

Current number of cannabis stores in Nova Scotia

There are currently 12 stores. There’s 1.5 store for every 100,000 adults.

PEI cannabis stores

Prince Edward Island Cannabis Retail Rules

How cannabis retailers operate in Prince Edward Island

Government-owned retailer PEI Cannabis is the only authorized retailer who can sell cannabis in stores or online.

Current number of cannabis stores in PEI

There are currently 4 stores, or 3.1 store for every 100,000 adults.

PiinPoints Cannabis Retail Location Analytics

Wading through the regulations frameworks for each province and municipalities can be time-consuming. PiinPoint helps Cannabis Retailers grow, by quickly identifying exclusion zones around points of interests like schools, hospitals, parks, community centres and other cannabis retailers. PiinPoint helps you identify potential real estate for your next location.

This data can be combined with PiinPoint’s up-to-date and comprehensive insights. This allows you to view demographics, competitors, and traffic counts all in one report, so you can identify and compare potential locations.

Learn More

What are the details and nuances that apply to each province?