Ontario passed legislation today that will regulate the lawful use, sale and distribution of recreational cannabis by the federal government's July 2018 legalization deadline.
Ontario's safe and sensible approach was informed by the province's experience managing tobacco and alcohol, advice from public safety and health partners, and lessons learned from jurisdictions that have recently legalized cannabis. Ontario's Cannabis Act, 2017 will:
- Create a new provincial retailer, overseen by the LCBO, to ensure safe and socially responsible distribution of recreational cannabis through stand-alone stores and an online order service. 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 service all regions of the province by July 2018.
- Protect youth by setting a minimum age of 19 to use, buy, possess and cultivate cannabis in Ontario
- Ban the use of cannabis in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, similar to alcohol
- 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
- Regulate the smoking and vaping of medical cannabis under the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017
- Help eliminate the illicit market, including illegal storefront dispensaries, by creating 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 will be set out in regulations developed over winter 2018, and posted to Ontario's regulatory registry for public comment.
The province is moving forward with its plans to support youth, young adults and other vulnerable populations through an integrated prevention and harm reduction approach. Ontario will build on the federal government's public awareness campaigns by launching a campaign in spring 2018 to increase awareness of Ontario-specific rules.
- The LCBO continues to engage with municipalities to discuss the process for siting stores. Updates are available at: lcbocannabisupdates.com.
- Informed by a summit with law enforcement and safety partners, Ontario is moving forward on a coordinated multidisciplinary enforcement strategy to shut down illegal storefronts. The new legislation includes high fines for corporations convicted of illegal selling or distribution as well as for landlords who permit such activities on their premises.
- 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.
- The province has also partnered with Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to introduce the Small Business Innovation Challenge. It encourages small and medium-sized businesses to develop solutions to rapidly determine if a driver is impaired by cannabis or other drugs.