Kingston cannabis activist confident of retail success, eventually

Despite being No. 652 on the waiting list, 420 Kingston owner Jennawae McLean said she is optimistic that her company will eventually get a licence to sell cannabis.

Elliot Ferguson | The Kingston Whig Standard

Despite being No. 652 on the waiting list, 420 Kingston owner Jennawae McLean said she is optimistic that her company will eventually get a license to sell cannabis.

On Friday, the Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario announced the winners in a lottery to pick which companies and individuals would get the first chance to receive the 25 retail licenses to sell cannabis.

In eastern Ontario, the region including Kingston, five lottery winners were drawn: Daniel Telio, Brandon Long, Patterson and Lavoie, Pure Alpha Holdings, and Karan Someshwar.
Almost 12,000 people and companies entered the lottery for the five licenses in eastern Ontario, which includes Kingston, Ottawa, Belleville, Barrie, and Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes.

McLean said she is still hopeful that a retail license opportunity will come her way, eventually.
“We are No. 652 until they revise the list and eliminate everyone who is disqualified,” McLean said.
Little is known about the eastern Ontario winners, but McLean said none of them were cannabis advocates nor were they involved in the industry before now, she said.

Even before the winners were announced, McLean said she was skeptical that many of the winners would meet the deadline to open up shop by April 1.

The cost to enter the lottery was $75, but for those who won, McLean said, there is a lot of work to do before then and she said most would likely not be up to the challenge.

Winners must post $50,000 lines of credit that will be drawn down if they don’t open their shops on time by April 1. There is also a $6,000 non-refundable fee for an operator’s license, plus $4,000 for the store license.

Lottery winners must pass the AGCO license screening, which includes checks for criminal background, connections to organized crime and finances.

“If they aren’t already building, if they don’t have a space that they are ready to convert, and if they don’t already have contractors ready to go, there is no chance that they are going to make it,” McLean said.
McLean said her company had its financing ready, business plan together, its training and staff handbooks prepared and a west-end storefront already rented.

Although lottery winners can’t sell their rights to apply for licenses and they can’t change the ownership structure of their companies until mid-December. But now that the winners have been announced, larger cannabis companies are expected to move in with offers to financially back the winners.

Taking on a financial backer, however, is not a path that McLean is interested in, she said, especially since in the long run the market will be opened to more sellers.
“I would rather wait a year and roll the dice on our own space and have 100 per cent of the pie,” she said.
Until that time comes, McLean said they would continue to sell cannabis accessories from their midtown location while they wait for the chance to open a retail shop. “We have put everything we have into this,” she said. “The next step is to continue as we have and be patient.”

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