Ontario, the most populous out of Canada's 10 provinces, could potentially be the one most populated with marijuana dispensaries. According to data provided to Marijuana Business Daily by the province's Alcohol and Gaming Commission, it has received almost 900 applications for retail operator licenses (ROLs) since Jan. 6.

That was the date when the province abandoned its former lottery system of license granting for a completely open application process, in which any business could apply.

Marijuana bud with Canadian flag in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

A retail operator license is the first permit a potential licensed dispensary operation must obtain. The second and last is retail store authorization (RSA); in that phase, applicants are required to provide details of their planned operation like physical location and store layout.

Any business receiving an ROL is permitted to apply for up to 10 RSAs.

At the moment, the commission has halted the issuance of RSAs because of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus outbreak. It has, however, been processing ROLs. All told, to date it has awarded 423 ROLs and 59 RSAs.

Despite that activity, many marijuana investors and industry pundits still consider Ontario to be severely underpopulated with dispensaries. As of early April it only had 52, a very thin number considering that it is home to nearly 15 million people and contains Canada's most populous city, Toronto.

Ontario is also where a clutch of top Canadian marijuana companies, both retailers and producers, have planted their headquarters. One relatively large one is Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON), which is based in Toronto. Cronos' wares are common sights on dispensary shelves throughout its native province.

On Thursday, Cronos' stock fell by 4.6%, in contrast to the gains enjoyed by both peer marijuana stocks and the broader equities market. 

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