The Canadian province of Ontario has had its rules and regulations for legal marijuana drafted since November 2017. But now that Bill C-45, the law legalizing non-medical cannabis in Canada has cleared its final legislative hurdle with a 52-29 vote in the Senate, Justin Trudeau’s government is announcing that sales could begin as early as September.
And Ontario is ready with a forward-looking plan that prioritizes public safety and gives the province strict control over the legal retail market. The seat of Canada’s federal government, Ontario cannabis laws diverge the least from the rules and regulations written into the federal legalization bill. Still, the way Ontario plans to regulate the distribution and sale of marijuana will significantly impact the province’s consumers and businesses.
This Is How Ontario Cannabis Laws Will Impact Consumers
In Ontario, non-medical cannabis consumers will follow much of the same rules about possession limits, age minimums, personal cultivation and public smoking as other provinces. But where and how consumers can purchase cannabis is a bit different.
The Age Minimum Will Be 19
If you’re 19 years old or older, you can already purchase tobacco and alcohol. And the province decided to make 19 the minimum age for using, buying, possessing and growing non-medical cannabis as well.
How Much Cannabis Can You Possess In Ontario
Ontario’s personal possession limits are in line with limits in other provinces and the federal government’s recommendation. Individuals may have a maximum of 30 grams, or about one ounce of dried cannabis in public at any one time.
How Much Cannabis Can You Grow In Ontario
Inside a private residence, people can grow up to four mature cannabis plants. Ontario specifically states that the four plant limit is a per residence limit, not a per person limit. So if you live with a roommate you can’t grow eight plants at home, just four.
Furthermore, if you want to grow cannabis at home, you’ll be able to purchase legal seeds and seedlings (aka clones) from government-run cannabis stores.
Where You Can and Can’t Use Cannabis In Ontario
Ontario has stricter rules about where people can use cannabis than many other provinces. Unlike British Columbia, for example, Ontario does not allow public cannabis smoking of any kind, even where tobacco is allowed.
You are only able to consume cannabis recreationally if you are in a private residence. However, the rules do let you smoke in the outdoor space of your home, such as a porch or backyard. If you live in an apartment, you can also smoke outside on your balcony or in your unit.
But bear in mind that many building owners strictly prohibit smoking of any kind, and those rules override the province’s allowances. Some cities, like Toronto, are even actively moving to ban cannabis smoking inside apartment units.
Ontario cannabis laws also state that you can’t use cannabis in workplaces or inside motorized vehicles, even if you’re a passenger. If authorities catch you once, you’re looking at a $1,000 fine just for a first offense. Subsequent infractions will land you with $5,000 fines.
Ontario’s Strict New Rules On Drug-Impaired Driving
A persistent concern by anti-legalization proponents has been the perceived threat to road safety from drug-impaired driving. Ontario has given its officers the authority to conduct roadside saliva screenings. They also plan to implement a specific device for testing driving for cannabis use.
Drivers caught under the influence of cannabis face severe penalties, from losing their licenses or vehicles to possible jail time.
New and young drivers face even stricter rules. Under Ontario’s “zero tolerance” policy for young, novice, and commercial drivers, the province doesn’t allow the presence of any THC.
So if you’re 21 or under, have a commercial license or a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, you can’t have any cannabis in your system when you drive. Even if you’re not under the influence.
Where Can You Buy Legal Cannabis In Ontario?
Once non-medical cannabis sales begin, products will be available exclusively at the Ontario Cannabis Store. These government-owned and -operated retail stores are the only place to obtain legal non-medical cannabis in Ontario. And that’s going to significantly impact private cannabis businesses in the province.
This Is How Ontario Cannabis Laws Will Impact Cannabis Businesses
Unofficial, unlicensed, illicit cannabis stores can be found across Ontario. And with legalization pending and so near to implementation, these businesses have largely gotten a pass.
From time to time, however, law enforcement does conduct sweeping raids to shut down some of these retail storefronts. But they’ve hardly been able to eliminate them entirely.
Illicit Cannabis Businesses Can Expect Tougher Enforcement
Ontario’s new cannabis laws, however, will ramp up enforcement actions against illicit businesses. After all, those companies are now in direct competition with the provincial government, who has the authority to dismantle the illicit marketplace.
And in fact, Ontario is introducing new provincial offenses with escalating penalties for illegal storefront dispensaries. Their goal is to eliminate the illicit market altogether.
The Ontario Cannabis Store Will Be The Only Game In Town
To conduct legal retail operations, Ontario isn’t going to use the province’s liquor control board in the same way as other provinces. Instead, it’s going to create a new retailer, called the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Ontario has already announced the locations of the first of 40 stores it plans to establish in time for retail sales. The province will continue to add stores, reaching 80 by summer 2019 and ultimately, 150 stores by 2020.
While these Ontario Cannabis Store locations are standalone dispensaries, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will oversee operations.
Currently, the LCBO is working with municipalities across Ontario to discuss how to best site retail locations.
How Were The Ontario Cannabis Laws Made?
Ontario designed the rules and regulations for its cannabis market based on extensive consultation with health experts, legal officials, indigenous communities and city governments. They also looked to other weed-legal jurisdictions for models of what worked.
Furthermore, Ontario even surveyed Ontarians about how they’d like their province’s cannabis laws to look. Ultimately, Ontario cannabis laws reflect the key results from that survey, which show strong agreement with the age, public consumption limit, driving penalties and public safety approach Ontario has adopted.