Today, Ontario became the first Province to introduce its recreational cannabis legislation by tabling Bill 174, An Act to enact the Cannabis Act, 2017, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 and to repeal two Acts and to make amendments to the Highway Traffic Act respecting alcohol, drugs and other matters (the Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017). The Province’s regulations will build on and clarify the proposed Federal legislation, Bill C-45.
Under the Act, the proposed minimum age to purchase recreational cannabis will be set at 19, which is consistent with alcohol and tobacco sales in Ontario. The minimum age will also apply to possession, consumption and at-home cultivation. Police will be able to confiscate any amount of cannabis from those under the minimum age.
As we learned in September, Ontario’s “safe and sensible approach” to retail involves an LCBO subsidiary which will be called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (“OCRC”). Bill 174, Schedule 2, enacts the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017, which will establish the OCRC as exclusive distributor of cannabis in Ontario. The OCRC will sell through stand-alone stores and online sales.
The legislation will also include a proposed new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which will provide clarity on where medical cannabis may be consumed and will address vaping and e-cigarettes. As for recreational cannabis, the proposed legislation will ban the use of cannabis in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, similar to the rules surrounding alcohol. Under the proposed legislation, recreational cannabis will only be legal to use in private residences. As previously communicated, going forward Ontario may entertain the idea of expanding these rules and will consult with municipal partners and stakeholders such as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission about the possibility of designated cannabis-friendly establishments.
As expected, Ontario’s Cannabis Act, 2017, will introduce new penalties for those illegally selling or distributing cannabis and for landlords who permit these activities on their premises. The Government has the stated intention of eliminating illegal retail (dispensaries) in the Province. The penalties may include fines and potential jail sentences.
Ontario’s legislation will also include the Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017, which will implement harsh measures to address impaired driving in conjunction with the Criminal Code of Canada. If passed, the new measures will include a zero tolerance approach prohibiting young, novice and commercial drivers from having the presence of drugs in their system. The penalties includes license suspension, monetary penalties, and potential mandatory education or treatment programs. Drug impairment will be determined by an evaluation from a drug recognition expert and will be detected by a federally approved oral fluid screening device.
Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario’s statement about the introduction of the Bill:
“Our government has announced a safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis. With this bill, we are taking an important step towards implementing an approach that will help eliminate the illegal market, protect young people and keep impaired drivers off the road.”
Similarly, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance says:
“Our proposed legislation demonstrates to the people of Ontario that we are implementing a controlled and socially responsible recreational cannabis framework. We are focused on getting our plan right, in a way that makes sense for consumers, families and municipalities across the province.”
Be sure to follow along at Canada Cannabis Legal for continuous updates on the passage of the Ontario legislation. Click for the full text of Bill 174.