Written by Ranjeev S. Dhillon, Aaron E. Sonshine and Rami Chalabi
On Friday, September 8, Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance and Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced a comprehensive framework outlining the province’s approach to the retail distribution model for recreational cannabis. The announcement was made in response to the federal government’s proposal to legalize cannabis as outlined in the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), which assigns the responsibility of the sale and distribution of cannabis to the provinces, and is expected to be implemented by July 2018. Ontario is the first province to put forward a provincial regulatory framework in response to Bill C-45, and is expected to put forward draft legislation later this fall.
Under Ontario’s proposed framework, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) would be mandated with overseeing the legal retail of cannabis through stand-alone cannabis stores and a government-controlled online ordering service. Key elements of Ontario’s framework include:
- The operation of approximately 150 standalone retail stores by 2020, with a plan to have 80 of the stores operational by July 1, 2019. Online distribution available as of July 2018.
- A prohibition on the sale of cannabis and alcohol being sold together. While controlled by the LCBO, cannabis retail and sale will occur through entirely separate outlets from already existing LCBO stores.
- Consistent with Bill C-45, edibles or cannabis-infused foods will not be sold online or in retail stores.
- A minimum age of 19 to use, purchase and possess recreational cannabis. Police officers will be permitted to confiscate small amounts of cannabis from individuals under the age of 19, but the confiscation will not result in a criminal record.
- A prohibition on the use of recreational cannabis in public places and work spaces. These limits will likely mirror those used to restrict the consumption of alcohol in public spaces and in the workplace. However, the Ontario government did express a commitment toward exploring the feasibility of permitting designated establishments where cannabis could be consumed legally.
- Implementation of a harm prevention and reduction approach to encourage the responsible use of cannabis and to promote education about cannabis-related health harms.
- A proactive enforcement strategy to shut down illegal cannabis dispensaries/retailers using a coordinated approach between municipalities, local police services, the OPP and the federal government.
- Pricing and taxation to be determined once more information is obtained from the federal government.
The details of the framework will continue to be developed as the Ontario government continues to consult with municipalities, Indigenous communities and important stakeholders.