After a sluggish initial rollout, Ontario marks a period of rapid growth by reaching a milestone of 1,000 licensed cannabis stores. The 1,000th store is Black-owned 6 of Spade that opened in Toronto on August 20.
Located in Little Portugal, 6 of Spade was opened in late August by husband and wife, Jeremiah and Amiga Wheatle. The store has African art on the walls and a mural featuring prominent Black figures Madam C.J. Walker, Muhammad Ali, Emperor Haile Selassie, and Bob Marley. Through their hiring practices, the business owners aim to inspire other Black entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and to address historical inequities around cannabis policing.
“A lot of our family and friends are part of the Rastafari culture, so smoking has always been a part of our lives,” Amiga Wheatle said. “But we’ve always understood it to be about more than just getting high.”
This recent rapid growth has brought heavy competition and complaints of retail cannabis oversaturation. The small city of Guelph with a population of approximately 132,000 could soon have at least 25 cannabis retailers — one store for every 5,200 people, or about three times the Provincial average.
Toronto currently has about 250 cannabis stores —approximately a quarter of the province’s total. Toronto’s stores are all packed into 630 square kilometers of space with multiple stores per block. Only time will tell if all of these Ontario cannabis retailers can stay in business.
The Ontario Cannabis Store, the monopoly wholesaler to these stores, acknowledged other milestone stores including Ontario’s northernmost store (Off the Stem in Kapuskasing) and the first store in Peel Region (Ganjika in Brampton).
Ontario’s June cannabis retail sales comprised 37.7% of all Canadian regulated marijuana sales that month.