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Lawyers for 11 disqualified Ontario pot shop applicants say process was unfair

FILE - This Nov. 27, 2015 file photo shows two marijuana buds displayed for a customer in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File).
FILE - This Nov. 27, 2015 file photo shows two marijuana buds displayed for a customer in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File). David Zalubowski / The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Lawyers for 11 people who applied to open a cannabis store in Ontario only to be disqualified shortly afterwards say their clients were denied a fair process.

At a hearing in Toronto today, lawyers for the group say the provincial agency tasked with administering the licensing process interpreted one of the rules in an “unfair and unreasonable manner.”

As a result, the lawyers argue, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario was not entitled to disqualify the 11 applicants or to select a new slate of applicants to replace them.

READ MORE: Ontario judge grants cannabis store licensing stay, rejected applicants seek review

The group is now requesting a judicial review of the rejection, as well as the procedures involved in the lottery that has been used to grant all of Ontario’s pot shop licences.

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The commission said in August that the group had missed a deadline in the application process, but the 11 say that’s not the case.

The group’s lawyers argue an email alerting their clients that they had won the lottery did not go through, and the deadline is set based on when applicants are notified.

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The commission “just determined that the attempt to notify was sufficient” to trigger the countdown, attorney Michael Lacy said.

Earlier this month, a Toronto judge paused the licensing process for the latest round of cannabis stores until the case is resolved.

Lawyers representing the commission contested the stay, saying it would interfere with the integrity of the lottery system.

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There was also opposition from lawyers representing the applicants selected to replace those eliminated.

READ MORE: Evicted Ontario tenant challenges ‘draconian’ pot law as unconstitutional

So far, there have been two rounds of the government lottery to determine who can apply to open cannabis stores. The first involved 25 spots and the second, 42.

Lottery winners have five business days to turn in their application, along with a $6,000 non-refundable fee and a $50,000 letter of credit.

The legal challenge may affect the government’s timeline to increase the number of legal pot shops in the province.

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