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Ontario's Plan to Regulate Legalized Cannabis

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Plan to Regulate Legalized Cannabis

Ministry of the Attorney General

The province's approach to cannabis legalization, and the legislative changes proposed in the Ontario's Cannabis Act, 2017, build on the proposed federal framework in several key areas.

Setting a minimum age for Ontario

Ontario is proposing to set the minimum age to purchase recreational cannabis at 19 years old, the same as alcohol and tobacco. This minimum age would also apply to possession, home cultivation and use.

The province consulted public health and law enforcement stakeholders and determined that raising the minimum age above the federal minimum will help to protect youth with an understanding that setting the age too high would risk continued reliance on the illegal market among young people.

Youth diversion

To further protect youth in Ontario, police would be able to confiscate any amount of cannabis from youth under the age of 19. The province's approach to protecting youth will focus on prevention, harm reduction and diversion, to avoid bringing youth into unnecessary contact with the justice system.

Establishing safe and responsible retail

Ontario is proposing a safe and sensible approach to the sale of recreational cannabis, overseen by the LCBO through a subsidiary corporation, through stand-alone stores and provincewide delivery through an online order service. This will meet the standards of public safety and social responsibility that people expect, while responding to consumer demand and eliminating the illegal market.

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. The government will evaluate how this approach is working throughout the rollout to ensure that the goals of safe, responsible sales of cannabis and elimination of the illegal market are achieved. 

Learn more about Ontario's proposed retail and distribution model.

Shutting down illegal storefronts

Current illegal cannabis storefronts, such as dispensaries, are not, and will not, be legal retailers. The illegal cannabis market is worth approximately $7 billion a year with significant amounts funnelled to organized crime.

To help eliminate illegal retail, Ontario's Cannabis Act, 2017 if passed, would introduce tough new penalties for individuals or corporations that are convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis, and for landlords who knowingly permit these activities on their premises.

These penalties include fines, which would increase with subsequent convictions, and a potential jail sentence up to two years less a day for individuals.

This approach is supported by the input received from law enforcement partners at Ontario's recent enforcement summit.  

The province will also pursue a coordinated and proactive enforcement strategy with municipalities, local police services, the Ontario Provincial Police and the federal government to help shut down these illegal operations.

This strategy will aim to reduce the illegal market, enhance public safety and eliminate the sale of unregulated and potentially unsafe cannabis products.

Limiting places of use

Under the proposed legislation, it would onlybe legal to use recreational cannabis in private residences. People would not be allowed to use any form of recreational cannabis in public places, workplaces or inside a motor vehicle.

This precautionary approach aims to protect the health and well-being of everyone in Ontario, especially children, youth and other vulnerable populations, and draws on lessons learned from the existing laws for consuming alcohol and the province's Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

Moving forward, Ontario will consult with municipal partners, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and other organizations, including Indigenous communities and organizations, to explore the feasibility and implications of introducing designated establishments where recreational cannabis could be consumed.

Learn more about where cannabis could be used in Ontario.

Supporting prevention and harm reduction

The province will support youth, young adults and other vulnerable populations through the development of a comprehensive prevention and harm reduction approach that promotes awareness of cannabis related health harms and helps people make informed decisions about use. The approach will help education, health, youth and social service providers that work to prevent, and reduce the harms associated with, substance use in youth and young adults.

As part of this approach, Ontario is:

  • Endorsing Canada's Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, and will work with health care partners to share that information and promote their uptake
  • Exploring training and other supports needed to increase capacity among education, health care, youth justice and social service providers to improve prevention and harm reduction efforts.

In the lead-up to federal legalization, to help ensure public awareness of this transition and the new measures that will take effect, the province is planning a public information campaign, coordinated with the federal government, to raise awareness of this transition and the new measures that will take effect.

Engaging with Indigenous communities and organizations

Ontario recognizes the need to meaningfully engage with First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations and peoples about cannabis legalization.

The province also recognizes that some First Nation communities may wish to develop specific approaches to cannabis. Reflective of Ontario's government-to-government relationship with First Nations, the proposed Cannabis Act includes flexibility for the province to enter into agreements with First Nation communities to establish these approaches.

Ensuring road safety

Keeping Ontario's roads safe is a critical part of the province's safe and sensible approach to the federal government's legalization of cannabis. The province is introducing new measures that would make drug-impaired driving laws even tougher.

Learn more about Ontario's plan to improve road safety ahead of cannabis legalization.

Strengthening enforcement

Ontario recently held an enforcement summit with law enforcement, fire safety and public health experts, First Nations policing representatives, municipal partners and the federal government. The summit focused on identifying enforcement strategies that are in place, where gaps may exist, collaboration opportunities between governments, the enforcement community and other partners, and determining what support our government can provide in these areas.

More than 100 members of organizations across Ontario attended the summit and offered valuable advice on enforcement of new cannabis laws. 

The province will continue to engage with municipal and policing partners, stakeholders and community partners, including Indigenous communities and organizations to ensure that police are given the tools and resources they need to prioritize the protection of public health and safety, including road safety.

Protecting safety in the workplace

As a key part of Ontario's integrated awareness campaign and to help keep Ontario workplaces safe, the province will be developing resources to guide employers, labour groups and others as they manage workplace safety issues related to impairment at work through education and awareness initiatives.

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