London-based marijuana producer eyeing 10 storefront pot shops

A London cannabis producer says it has secured a lease for a planned marijuana dispensary in the city’s south end as part of its aim to open 10 across Ontario this spring.

Cannabis companies have been on lease-signing sprees in recent months after the Progressive Conservatives announced their plan to allow private retailers to open pot shops beginning on April 1, 2019.

The province hasn’t opened the application process for storefront marijuana retailers, but that isn’t stopping cannabis companies from snatching up prime real estate.

Indiva, a licensed medical marijuana grower, secured leases for storefronts in London and Ottawa, while negotiations are underway in Toronto, the company said Monday.

“It means we’ll have a direct relationship with the consumer,” chief operator Koby Smutylo said of the company’s plan to become a retailer.

Indiva’s planned dispensary at 875 Wellington Rd., just south of Southdale Road, will carry its products, products from other licensed producers and a range of cannabis accessories. The 160-square-metre space is sandwiched between a Firehouse Subs and a Fedex office.

Pete Young, the master grower for Indiva, shows off some of their mature plants, which are used for producing cuttings of particular strains during a tour of their production centre in London. (Free Press file photo)

While dispensaries across the country are getting ready to open their doors on Oct. 17 – when Canada becomes the second country in the world to legalize recreation marijuana – Ontario residents will be able to legally buy pot only through a government-run delivery service.

Private storefront pot sales are to begin on April 1, 2019, after Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s pivot from the government-monopoly on cannabis sales set up under the previous Liberal government.

In anticipation of a government-run cannabis store under the now-nixed Liberal plan, London politicians approved a policy for keeping the dispensaries away from schools, libraries, pools, community centres and the Western Fair.

City hall has been directing anyone interested in opening a cannabis retail outlet in London to that policy, though the framework will likely be tweaked before its made into the official plan.

Some licensed producers are forging partnerships to run their retail stores, but Indiva wants to run its own dispensaries, Smutylo said.

“It’s a new business for everybody, except for the illegal market, which has been allowed to exist for quite some time in Ontario,” he said.

Four black market dispensaries continue to operate in London, despite repeated police attempts to crackdown on the illegal businesses. The unsanctioned pot shops’ continued existence – and the headaches they’ve created for some landlords – can make it difficult for some cannabis companies to secure leases.

“It’s a challenge because some landlords won’t lease to cannabis businesses,” Smutylo said.

A publicly traded company, Indiva employs 30 people at its facility on Hargrieve Road, where eight more grow rooms, an extraction facility and lab space are being added.

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