TORONTO -- Ontario is considering allowing cannabis lounges and cafes as it moves toward an open cannabis market.

The government is consulting on the possibility of "consumption venues" as well as special occasion permits that would apply to outdoor festivals and concerts.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario says it has received more than 700 applications for retail operator licences.

The Progressive Conservative government has said its ultimate goal is an open market, but a supply shortage forced it to start with a limited lottery system for retail licences.

The Tories say the latest consultation is to inform potential decisions about a future open market, and no changes to the cannabis framework are expected at this time.

Attorney General Doug Downey says the province is dedicated to allowing the private sector to build a safe and convenient retail system to combat the illegal market.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2020.