Ontario’s Framework for Marijuana Regulation: An Update

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As provinces across the country continue to debate the timing of cannabis (i.e. marijuana) legislation in their respective jurisdictions, lawmakers have begun to turn their minds to how the drug will be regulated once it is legalized.

CURRENT STATE OF MARIJUANA LEGISLATION

Marijuana is currently illegal in Canada and is listed under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Current exceptions exist only for those individuals who have been authorized to use cannabis for medicinal purposes by their health care provider. These individuals can purchase quality-controlled cannabis from a producer who is licensed by Health Canada, or produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medicinal purposes.

LEGALIZING AND REGULATING CANNABIS IN CANADA

In April 2017, the federal government announced legislation to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis by July 2018. The proposed Cannabis Act, if passed, will establish rules for producing, using, and selling cannabis across Canada. The federal government left the design and implementation of sales and distribution to each province and territory.

Ontario was the first province or territory in Canada to publicly outline a comprehensive plan to sanction federally legalized cannabis. On September 8, 2017, Ontario announced a comprehensive framework outlining the province’s approach to the retail distribution of recreational cannabis.

MINIMUM AGE LIMIT

Ontario proposes to make it illegal for individuals under the age of 19 to buy, sell, possess, share, and grow cannabis. This is comparable to the age limit for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario.

Police officers will be authorized to confiscate small amounts of marijuana from individuals under the age of 19, but the seizure will not result in a criminal record. The person in possession of the marijuana may be subject to provincial fines.

The province of Ontario is intent on protecting its youth and will focus on “prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.”

The Ontario government also plans on creating a public education campaign focused on informing young people about potential dangers of marijuana usage.

RETAIL LOCATIONS SELLING MARIJUANA

Ontario is planning for the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana to be overseen by the LCBO. However, marijuana will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol, and edibles or cannabis-infused foods will not be sold online or in retail stores.

The government of Ontario will proceed to work with municipalities, local police services, the OPP, and the federal government to help shut down any marijuana dispensaries that operate outside of the new parameters, once they are in place.

ONLINE MARIJUANA SALES

It has been suggested that online distribution will be available across the Ontario by July 2018 and 150 stand-alone cannabis stores open by the end of 2020 (80 stores to be opened by July 1, 2019).

Ontario will comply with federal requirements that limit advertising and require behind-the-counter sales similar to the way in which tobacco is currently sold. Staff will be required to follow strict requirements for age verification. Staff will also undergo mandatory training and have knowledge of products and how to use cannabis.

Delivery of online sales would require ID checks, signatures upon delivery, and no packages would be left unattended at the door.

PROHIBITED USE IN PUBLIC

Ontario proposes to restrict the places where marijuana can be consumed. It is suggested that cannabis not be used in public, in workplaces, or in motorized vehicles. Individuals will only be permitted to use recreational cannabis in private residences. These restrictions will be similar to those used to control the consumption of alcohol in public spaces and workplaces.

The Ontario government has advised that it will explore the possibility of allowing specific establishments where cannabis could be consumed legally.

LEGAL POSSESSION OF CANNABIS

Under the federal government’s proposal, adults would be allowed to have up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis and people under 18 years old could have up to five grams. The government of Ontario appears to be in agreement with these possession limits.

We will continue to provide updates regarding the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about updates as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.