The Ontario government lost $42M selling cannabis in the last year

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The Canadian Press

Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp. lost $42 million in the latest fiscal year, according to newly released public documents.

The provincial Crown corporation tasked with online sales and wholesale distribution of recreational pot reported revenues of $64 million for the year ended March 31, 2019.

However, Ontario’s consolidated financial statements show the OCRC, which operates as the Ontario Cannabis Store, racked up expenses totalling $106 million during the period.

Canada legalized cannabis for adult use on Oct. 17 last year, and the rollout was mired by supply chain issues and product shortages, which largely have been resolved in recent months.

The supply shortages prompted the Ontario government to cap the initial number of retail licences at 25, but the province is in the process of increasing the number of legal pot outlets to 75 by October.

The OCS announced last week that chief executive Patrick Ford would be retiring. Cal Bricker, senior vice-president of horse racing at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., was named interim chief executive while a search for a replacement is conducted.

Responding Friday to a request for comment from CBC Toronto, a spokesperson for Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said initial startup costs were to blame for the financial loss.

“Cannabis legalization is a new venture for Ontario. There were investments required for setting up a system that could achieve our objectives — which is to protect youth and combat the illegal market. The OCRC’s revenue outlook reflected the initial costs for the development of this retail system,” Emily Hogeveen wrote in an emailed response.

“The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) needed to make foundational investments to support Ontario’s approach to retail sales — which will see a broad network of private retail stores across the province established to effectively combat the illegal market,” Hogeveen added.

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