Ontario Preparing for Federal Cannabis Legalization
Province Introduces New Legislation to Protect Youth, Keep Roads and Communities Safe
Ontario has introduced legislation that would, if passed, safely regulate the use and distribution of recreational cannabis when it is legalized by the federal government in July 2018.
Ontario's proposed Cannabis Act, 2017 would support the province's safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis.
The proposed legislation would:
- Create a new provincial retailer, overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), to ensure safe and socially responsible distribution of recreational cannabis through stand-alone stores and an online order service. Under the proposed approach, approximately 150 standalone stores will be opened by 2020, including 40 stores by July 2018 and rising to 80 by July 2019. Online distribution will also be available to service all regions of the province.
- Protect youth by setting a minimum age of 19 to use, buy, possess and cultivate cannabis in Ontario.
- Focus on harm reduction by allowing for the diversion of people under the age of 19 from the justice system into programs focused on education and prevention, avoiding unnecessary contact with the justice system.
- Ban the use of cannabis in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, similar to alcohol.
- Regulate the smoking and vaping of medical cannabis under the proposed new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017.
- Help eliminate the illicit market including illegal storefront dispensaries, by introducing new provincial offences with strict, escalating penalties.
- Keep Ontario roads safe by establishing even tougher drug-impaired driving laws, including a zero-tolerance approach for young, novice and commercial drivers.
Other details of Ontario's approach would be set by regulation after passage of the legislation, and following consultation with municipalities, Indigenous communities, and other stakeholders.
The province will continue moving forward with its plans to support youth, young adults and other vulnerable populations through an integrated prevention and harm reduction approach. Ontario is also planning a public information campaign, coordinated with the federal government, to raise awareness of this transition and the new measures that will take effect.
- The LCBO will be engaging with municipalities to discuss the process for siting stores. Updates are available at: lcbocannabisupdates.com.
- This legislation would include a proposed new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which, if passed, would provide clarity on where medical cannabis can be smoked or vaped.
- The new Smoke-Free Ontario Act would also address vaping and the use of e-cigarettes to better protect people from second-hand smoke.
- Ontario’s tough new measures to protect road safety would be in addition to penalties for impaired driving convictions under the Criminal Code of Canada.
- The province recently made changes allowing police to immediately remove drivers from the road who they believe are impaired by drugs, including cannabis.
- According to a 2015 report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 45 per cent of Ontario adults have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime, while about 15 per cent have used cannabis in the past year.
“Our government has announced a safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis. With this bill, we are taking an important step towards implementing an approach that will help eliminate the illegal market, protect young people and keep impaired drivers off the road.”
“Our proposed legislation provides a controlled and socially responsible approach to the legalization of cannabis. As we move forward, we will work with municipalities to achieve our priorities of protecting young people and combating illicit distribution while providing effective measures to inform consumers on the use of cannabis.”