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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 safe and sensible approach to cannabis legalization and the strong new rules in Ontario's Cannabis Act, 2017 build on the federal framework in several key areas.

Setting a minimum age for Ontario

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

The province consulted with public health and law enforcement stakeholders and determined that raising the minimum age above the federal minimum will help protect youth, while 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 will be able to confiscate small amounts of cannabis from youth under the age of 19. The province's approach to protecting youth focuses on prevention, harm reduction and diversion to avoid bringing youth into unnecessary contact with the justice system.

Establishing safe and responsible retail

Ontario will take a safe and sensible approach to the sale of recreational cannabis, overseen by the LCBO through a subsidiary corporation, with 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 Ontario's approach, approximately 150 stand-alone stores will open by 2020, including 40 stores by July 2018, rising to 80 by July 2019. Online distribution will also be available to serve all regions of the province. The provinces will evaluate this approach throughout the rollout to ensure the safe, responsible sales of cannabis and elimination of the illegal market.

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

Shutting down illegal storefronts

Current cannabis storefronts have always been illegal. The new legislation provides additional tools to eliminate the illicit market, including illegal storefronts. The illegal cannabis market funnels approximately $7 billion a year to organized crime.

To help eliminate illegal retail, Ontario's legislation creates tough new penalties for individuals or corporations convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis, and for landlords who knowingly permit these activities on their premises.

These penalties include fines, which will increase with subsequent convictions, and a potential jail sentence of 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 aims 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 legislation, it will onlybe legal to use recreational cannabis in private residences. People will 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 consumption sites where recreational cannabis could be consumed.

Learn more about where you can consume cannabis 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 will promote awareness of cannabis-related health harms and help 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 legislation 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 new measures included in this legislation make drug-impaired driving laws even tougher.

New measures include:

  • Enhancing Ontario's existing penalties by introducing escalating monetary penalties that will apply to all impaired driving sanctions (alcohol and/or drugs)
  • Creating a zero tolerance approach prohibiting young (age 21 and under), novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) and commercial drivers from having the presence of a drug in their system, as detected by a federally approved oral fluid screening device.

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 potential 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 the 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 have 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 develop 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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