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Ontario government scrapping cannabis retail stores cap, removing pre-qualification rules

Click to play video 'Black market still drawing many cannabis consumers' Black market still drawing many cannabis consumers
WATCH ABOVE: Cannabis has been legal in Canada for a year, but an overwhelming amount of Canadians still buy it from illegal sources. One year later, cost and convenience are still the sticking points for many consumers. Matthew Bingley reports. (Oct. 17)

TORONTO – The Ontario government is set to open the province’s cannabis market and remove a cap on the number of private retail store locations, abandoning the current lottery system.

In a statement released by Attorney General Doug Downey’s office Thursday evening, requirements for aspiring retailers will also be removed and licensed cannabis producers will be able to open a retail store at one of each of the company’s producing facilities.

“This will provide consumers with more choice and convenience and a safe, reliable supply of cannabis,” the statement said.

READ MORE: Cannabis CEO says Ontario’s lack of stores is why the company is losing money

The legal changes, which are scheduled to take effect in January, will also see a phase-in give retail businesses the ability to sell more cannabis-related items, such as cookbooks and magazines.

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The Progressive Conservatives previously said it hoped to open up the market to as many as a thousand stores, but had to slow plans down in light of a cannabis supply shortage.

The government turned to the lottery system twice to issue the province’s first 75 retail licences, but has since faced criticism for sticking with the system too long.

Critics also said the province’s slow approach has left legal sellers unable to keep pace with the black market.

— With files from The Canadian Press