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Windsor pot

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Dozens of retail pot applications submitted to AGCO in Windsor-Essex

WINDSOR, ONT. — Windsor’s only cannabis store may soon have company.

There are currently 19 applications before the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to open retail pot shops around Windsor.

It’s a relatively high number compared with similar sized cities in the province. It’s also a large number considering Windsor lagged behind other municipalities in securing its first retail store because the lottery system in place limited the number of stores that could open.

But when the province ditched that process in early 2020, the floodgates opened and now, you’re seeing many prospective bud-businesses take advantage.

“We’ve seen quite a lot of applications come through and I think you’re kind of seeing this rush to be one of the first ones open,” says downtown Coun. Rino Bortolin.

J. Supply Co. on Ouellette Avenue was the first to open in late March and managers’ report demand at the retail cannabis store has been high.

“We’ve seen all sorts of customers and lots of customers thanking us for being open when they needed us,” says assistant manager, Haley Colenutt.

While they’re limited to five customers at once inside the store, business has been steady — and they’re working to build a strong customer base.

“I think we’re creating some real customer connections in the meantime and that’s where we’re trying to focus before that competition comes in,” says Colenutt. “It will only make us stronger in the end and provide a better experience for the customers looking for that.”

City administration opposed that location formally to the AGCO, but their appeal wasn’t considered and the store opened a short time later.

“The store opened on Ouellette, there was lots of concern, I haven’t heard boo,” says Bortolin. “I haven’t heard one complaint from anybody, whether it be business owners or residents about that store opening up on Ouellette.”

But it won’t be the only store for long.

On top of the 19 additional retail applications that have been submitted to the province in Windsor alone, another eight have been submitted to the AGCO across the rest of Essex County and seven more in Chatham-Kent.

Council originally delegated authority to respond to the province but voted to take that authority back after the first application wasn’t supported.

Even still, council has no real say in the matter because the province ultimately makes its own decision based on specific criteria — restricting locations within 150 metres of schools and child care centres.

Windsor council has supported all but two applications, so far, according to Bortolin.

“How many is enough for Windsor, is it two, is it five, is it 10, 12 or 20? We won’t know,” the councillor says. “It comes down to what will the market bear. So even though 19 applications have come through, they have to show they’re serious. I don’t know how many of them will last.”

Residents have mixed feelings on the number of proposed locations throughout the city.

“Way too many,” says Titel Panait. “I think will be a disaster for downtown, especially, on the weekends, there will be so many of them.”

“Everything’s closed. So let’s get these retail stores open, ASAP,” says downtown resident Dennis Gray. “Not next year or the year after, tomorrow.”

“Awesome idea,” quips Alan Gardiner, adding, “They should have it here. Get it off the streets, get it in a store, better.”

Haley Colenutt believes there’s room in the marketplace — and demand to support many more stores.

“It’s opening up a conversation, it’s becoming less of a taboo item – the more people who evolve, the more the customers are saying, you know what? Maybe this is something I can explore,” she says.

After a brief public input period for each proposed location — the applications stay in the hands of the AGCO, which is once more reviewing applications.

Customers wait for their orders inside Windsor’s only retail cannabis store, J. Supply Co on Ouellette Avenue on May 28, 2020 (Rich Garton / CTV Windsor)

Windsor’s only cannabis store may soon have company.