How To Open a Dispensary in Ontario: Frequently Asked Questions

How to open a dispensary in Ontario, Canada. Cannabis marketing agency. Dispensary marketing company. Social media management for dispensaries.

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FAQs: Marijuana Dispensary Retail Store Operations

Are you a potential cannabis business owner with more questions than answers when it comes to how to open a dispensary in Ontario?

We have the full list of frequently asked questions regarding opening a cannabis retail store in Ontario, Canada directly from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for the first lottery.

If you’re looking for information on the new, second AGCO lottery for cannabis retail stores in Ontario, go here.

Below we provide answers to dispensary owners questions about security in their retail stores, the process of checking IDs, in-store cannabis vending machines, online sales, delivery, staff/budtender training and a few other important items.

Also included are the answers to what you’ll be able to do in terms of in-store display advertising and what sort of dispensary advertising restrictions will be in place for retail store owners.

If you have questions about how to open a dispensary in Ontario and how to market and promote your cannabis retail store you’ll find your answers below.

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How To Market a Dispensary in Ontario: Questions Answered

Since we’re a cannabis digital marketing agency, let’s start off answering a few questions about what sort of advertising dispensary owners are permitted to display in-store and how to manage a dispensary advertising strategy.


1. Dispensary Retail Store Displays & Advertising

This restriction lays out the rules and regulations on displaying cannabis and CBD products in your dispensary.

a. Will sealed and anchored sniff display containers be allowed in the retail space?

  • Sensory display containers are permitted. They must be locked, tamper-proof, and must not be able to be removed from the premises.

b. How can the product be displayed?

  • Retailers may choose how to display their product. All cannabis must be stored securely at all times, and be only accessible by staff. Cannabis display must also comply with Registrar’s Standard #12 (below)
  • Licensees must ensure that cannabis accessories are not visible from the exterior of the premises.

c. What sort of restrictions for advertising will be in place for stores?

d. Are there limits on what we can name the store?

  • It is expected that all signage (including the name of the retail store) comply with Registrar’s Standard #22 (below), and this will be reviewed through the application process.

Language and images on exterior signage may not:

  • communicate information about the price or distribution of cannabis or cannabis accessories
  • appeal to young persons
  • contain testimonials or endorsements
  • depict a person, character, or animal, whether real or fictional
  • present cannabis or a cannabis accessory in a manner that associates it with or evokes a positive or negative emotion or image of a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring
  • promote cannabis or cannabis accessories in a way that is false, misleading, or deceptive
  • be associated with medicine, health, or pharmaceuticals, nor
  • associate consumption of cannabis with driving a motorized vehicle, or with any activity that requires care and skill or has elements of danger.
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More Questions on How To Open a Dispensary in Ontario

So now that questions regarding the rules and regulations for your dispensary advertising plan have been answered, let’s move to other frequently asked questions about how to open a marijuana dispensary in Ontario.

2. Age

a. How do we ensure no one under the age of 19 is allowed in the store? Do we need to hire bouncers or is it sufficient to ID people at the counter and ask them to leave the store if they are under age?

  • Retailers have the flexibility to determine how to comply with s.20 of Ontario Regulation 468/18. There should be procedures in place to prevent anyone under 19 from entering, but it is up to the retailer to determine what is best for their particular location.

b. Do I need a separate pre-store room to check ID?

  • Retailers have the flexibility to determine how to comply with s.20 of Ontario Regulation 468/18. There should be procedures in place to prevent anyone under 19 from entering, but it is up to the retailer to determine what is best for their particular location.

3. Manager Hours

a. Does a licensed manager need to be present every day at the store?

  • No, there are no set hours for a retail store manager.  However, they are required to perform the following functions which requires regular attendance at a store:
  • Supervising or managing the employees of a cannabis retail store;
  • Overseeing or coordinating the sale of cannabis;
  • Managing compliance issues in relation to the sale of cannabis;
  • Having signing authority to purchase cannabis, enter into contracts or make offers of employment.

4. Criminal Charges

a. Can I hire people with criminal charges?

  • Licensees must ensure that all employees act in accordance with the law and demonstrate honesty and integrity. Requirements – At a minimum:
  • licensees must obtain criminal background checks from employees as part of the hiring process
  • licensees must ensure that all employees understand their obligations with respect to applicable laws, regulations, standards, and policies
  • licensees must ensure that all employees have completed any required training, including Board-approved training, prior to their first scheduled shift.
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5. Can a store be set up with vending machines?

The federal Cannabis Act prohibits selling or distributing cannabis or cannabis accessories by means of a dispensing device, such as a vending machine.

6. Online Sales

a. Can I create an e-commerce platform if I am granted a store authorization?

  • No not for cannabis products. The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is the only legal online store for the purchase and sale of recreational cannabis in Ontario.
  • The OCS is a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario and is also the only legal supplier (wholesaler) of cannabis for private retail stores in Ontario.

b. Can I allow customers to order cannabis products online but require they pick it up in store?

  • No. The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is the only legal online store for the purchase and sale of recreational cannabis in Ontario. Customers will have to physically order and purchase product in the store.

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7. Security Requirements

a. Is there a limit on the quantity of Cannabis a retailer can possess?

  • There is no limit on the quantity of cannabis a licensee can possess but it must be stored on the premises of the authorized store.

b. Are there specific security requirements for a store?

  • Registrar’s Standards #8-14 cover security requirements for a store, including surveillance systems, secure storage, and secure access to the premises.

c. Will there be a recommended Point of Sale (POS) and/or inventory management software or will it be up to the applicant to select?

  • POS and/or inventory management software is up to the discretion of the licensee provided it meets specific criteria.
  • POS systems must be certified by a recognized industry certification body or organization (e.g., PCI, ISO) and have logging capability for the purpose of monitoring all systems access and system changes.

8. Delivery

a. Will the AGCO licence cannabis delivery services?

  • No.  There will not be a cannabis delivery licence.

b. Who will handle transportation of orders from the OCS to retail stores?

  • The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) will handle delivery of product to cannabis retail stores.
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9. Training

a. When will the training programs be available? / Is there a fee for the training?

  • The employee training program is currently under development and is expected to be in place in February 2019. More information on the approved program, its fees and requirements will be provided by the AGCO when finalized.

b. Will the training be online or in a classroom setting?

  • The training will be available online.

10. Can I have educational seminars in the store about cannabis?

  • It will be up to the retail operator to determine what additional educational information they want to provide to customers.
  • Under the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores, licensees must ensure that information related to the responsible use of cannabis is made available to patrons.
  • Minimum requirements include licensees making the Health Canada Consumer Information – Cannabis document available to patrons.  The Registrar may also prescribe other information related to responsible use.

11. Sellable Products

a. Will stores be able to sell medicinal products such as pills, oil creams that are currently offered to medicinal patients now?

  • The AGCO Retail Operator Licence and Retail Store Authorization allows operators to sell recreational cannabis. To sell cannabis for medical purposes, a licence from Health Canada is required. For more information, please refer to the Cannabis Act and Health Canada.

b. When will edible products be part of the licensing process?

  • Commercially-prepared edibles are currently not legal. The federal government will be responsible for regulating and permitting the sale of edible cannabis products by provinces Health Canada has a public consultation underway on regulations related to edible cannabis products.  Please visit the Health Canada website for more information.

c. What are Federally defined cannabis accessories?

Under the federal Cannabis Act an accessory is defined as:

  • (a) a thing, including rolling papers or wraps, holders, pipes, water pipes, bongs and vaporizers, that is represented to be used in the consumption of cannabis; or
  • (b) a thing that is deemed under subsection (3) to be represented to be used in the consumption of cannabis.

d. Do the cannabis accessories have to be bought from OCS if running a retail store?

  • No, cannabis accessories do not need to be purchased through the OCS. However, all accessories must meet the requirements of a federally defined cannabis accessory.
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We Can Help You Market Your Dispensary

I hope some of your questions on opening a dispensary in Ontario have been answered with the FAQ’s above.

When it comes to marketing your dispensary in Ontario, Canada, United States, or worldwide, our team of experienced cannabis marketers can help you craft your dispensary marketing strategy. is a professional digital marketing agency for cannabis companies and dispensaries. We have been able to advertise medical cannabis on Facebook and Google since 2017.

We can help you manage your daily content for social media, build a brand new website, SEO optimize your existing website, and manage your Google Advertising.

Contact us today or reach out using the form below.

We’re ready to help you grow!