Indie pot store owner says red tape blocking her efforts

Indie pot store owner says red tape blocking her efforts

A Toronto woman is frustrated with the red tape she says she has faced while attempting to open a pot store.

Vivianne Wilson, who is working to set up her store called GreenPort at 686 College St., says the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s cannabis retail licencing process is out of whack.

She says there is no transparency and the ordeal to open her store has so far taken 253 days.

“As a small business owner, carrying the costs of a business for 253 days without generating income is
crippling. The pandemic further confirmed this fact,” said Wilson, the first and only female Black independent owner and operator of a Canadian cannabis retail business.

“My aim is to provide diversity and representation which is presently absent from the Canadian cannabis industry. I am extremely proud to have independently founded a cannabis company that was awarded a federal cannabis sales licence in 2019,” Wilson added.

She also applied on January 9, 2020, to the province for a cannabis retail licence with the AGCO and was approved on March 26.

On March 31, Wilson says she applied for the Cannabis Retail Sore Authorization, the second part of the application process, but she says that process has stalled.

Wilson says the AGCO says it will be late September before she will get the second-stage approval.

“I am in the process of establishing the first Canadian cannabis retail business that is independently owned, operated, and funded by a woman of colour, but the AGCO’s process is making this nearly impossible,” she said.

Wilson says 61 of the 100 cannabis stores authorized to open by the AGCO are owned by 15 companies and 35 of the stores authorized to open are owned by five companies.

“I asked the AGCO for any support that they could offer a small business owner such as myself and I was
met with a response of it’s a fair process for all applicants and we wouldn’t prioritize one over another.
Many other applicants are dealing with the same type of situation and are dealing with it as there is
nothing else that needs to be done,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s file has been placed in the queue for approval and will “tentatively” be approved for Sept. 28, said AGCO spokesperson Ray Kahnet.

“The AGCO has a team of Compliance and Licensing officers working on multiple files. All applications are processed efficiently and equitably. Generally speaking, delays may occur based on the complexity of the file and if the AGCO requests additional disclosure information and must wait for a response,” Kahnet said.

“The AGCO is committed to its mandate of ensuring the safe and responsible sale of recreational cannabis in licensed retail stores.”

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