Cannabis Retail Store License Authorization Applications

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As the regulator for private cannabis retail in Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the authority to license, regulate and enforce the sale of recreational cannabis in privately-run stores in Ontario. Further, provincial legislation prohibits municipalities from passing a by-law that distinguishes land or building use for cannabis from any other kind of use. Existing municipal requirements in place that apply to all retail use in that municipality would apply to retail cannabis stores. 

The AGCO notifies the City of Ottawa when a cannabis store licence holder has applied for a store in Ottawa. Once notified, City staff will:

  • Review proposed applications with respect to matters pertaining to the public interest (see definition below), and
  • Provide a response to the AGCO with the evaluation of the criteria pertaining to the Key Principles and include any comments received from Ward Councillors.

This process is pursuant to Council Direction dated December 13, 2018.

Information to Applicants 

Regulatory Framework

Cannabis production and retail store operation and management are licensed through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). During a pre-qualification phase, retail license applicants are required by the AGCO to demonstrate that an appropriate retail site has been secured.

During the license application process, the City of Ottawa provides comments and land use information to the AGCO regarding the suitability of the proposed retail location. This is done in accordance with Council Direction issued on December 13, 2018 further to a motion to opt-in to allow cannabis retail establishments within the City of Ottawa boundaries. This direction is summarized in the below Cannabis Retail Evaluation Criteria. A Cannabis Retail Store Authorization may be issued only if it is not in contravention to the public interest, as set out under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018. The AGCO uses comments received during the mandated public notice for a Cannabis Retail Store Authorization, in conducting this evaluation.

A cannabis store is considered a retail use in the City’s Zoning By-Law 2008-250, and permitted in zones where a retail store is a listed primary use. Retail uses are permitted in several commercial and mixed-use zones. In addition to setback requirements and permitted uses, these zones also outline standards for building design as it relates to impact on the public realm. For example, a Traditional Mainstreet zone requires that a building have a minimum percentage of transparent windows facing the street. This kind of provision should be considered in conjunction with the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores, which for example, states that “[l]icensees must ensure that cannabis and accessories are not visible from the exterior of the premises.” Applicants are required to comply with both City of Ottawa standards and AGCO requirements for cannabis retail stores.

In securing a retail site, it is the applicant’s responsibility to review the below evaluation criteria, speak to the appropriate Ward Councillor, and investigate whether potential zoning conflicts exist, in satisfying that the proposed site is appropriate and in keeping with the public interest. Zoning designations can be found on the City’s publicly accessible mapping system through an address search, or by speaking with a Development Information Officer, located at any of the City of Ottawa client service centres.

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and Regulation 468/18, Sec.11(2) requires that cannabis retail establishments provide a minimum 150m setback from any School, as defined under the Education Act. The City requests additional setbacks and considerations as outlined below.

Cannabis Retail Evaluation Criteria

On December 13th, 2018 City of Ottawa Council passed a motion that delegates authority to the General Manager of Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development Department (PRED) to submit formal responses with respect to Cannabis Retail Store Authorization applications in Ottawa, as filed through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

The Provincial legislation provides that the AGCO may not issue a retail store authorization for applications that are not deemed to be in the ‘public interest,’ as defined in s. 10 of Regulation 468/18 as meaning:

    1. protecting public health and safety,
    2. protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis, and
    3. preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

Under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, interested parties have 15 calendar days to submit comments regarding cannabis retail applications based on matters of public interest. The AGCO considers comments received from the municipality and other respondents in evaluating whether applications are in the public interest. 

City comments are to include reference to the following evaluation criteria, further to concerns raised in the Staff Reports and Summaries of Public Interest:

Is the proposed establishment within 150 metres of another Licensed Cannabis Store?
Cannabis retail stores should maintain a 150 metre distance separation, as the Board of Health has noted concerns that excessive clustering and geographic concentration of cannabis retail outlets may encourage undesirable health outcomes.

Is the proposed establishment within 150 metres of a publicly-owned and/or operated: recreational facility, community centre, library, public or private school, or active-use public park?
Licensed Cannabis Stores should maintain a 150 metre distance separation from sensitive uses including schools and facilities analogous to schools that provide a community function or are locations where youth congregate. Separation may prevent the normalization of cannabis use.

Is the proposed establishment: (1) located in a zone where ‘Retail Store’ is a listed principal use (and not a legal non-conforming use), and (2) not located in a residential zone permitting retail, such as a Local Commercial or Neighbourhood Commercial (small c-suffix) zone?
Cannabis retail stores should be restricted to zones of a commercial focus where ‘retail store’ is a principal use in the Zoning By-law. Locations where retail is secondary or accessory to another use are not appropriate, including locations in a residential context.

Have factors of local importance been expressed by the Ward Councillor?
Consideration should be given to any concerns raised by the Ward Councillor.

Should the location of a proposed cannabis retail store conflict with any of the above criteria, the applicant is advised that the City will file an objection to the granting of a license with AGCO through the public commenting process.

How residents submit comments

Send your comments directly to the AGCO using the How to file a written submission in response to a cannabis retail store authorization application website. Resident comments are not included in the City’s response to the AGCO. Residents may search for current open applications for cannabis retail store licences and submit comments to the AGCO by the deadline identified on the AGCO website.

License requirements – Public interest

Provincial legislation provides that the AGCO may not issue a cannabis retail store authorization for application deemed not to be in the “public interest”, as defined in s. 10 of Regulation 468/18. Only the following matters are matters of public interest:

  1. Protecting public health and safety
  2. Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis, and
  3. Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

Written submissions objecting to the cannabis retail store location must address how the store location is not acceptable based on the above definition of the public interest.

City of Ottawa Comments – Completed Applications

The City of Ottawa has sent the following comments to the AGCO for past applications:

Ward 1

Ward 2

Ward 3

Ward 4

Ward 5

Ward 6

Ward 7

Ward 8

Ward 9

Ward 10

Ward 11

Ward 12

Ward 13

Ward 14

Ward 15

Ward 16

Ward 17

Ward 18

Ward 19

Ward 20

Ward 21

Ward 22

Ward 23

Ward 24

For more information, contact:
Carol Ruddy, Planner 
Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development Department
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West. Ottawa, ON
email :
tel :613-580-2424, ext. 28457