A joint effort: Ontario's Proposed Cannabis Retail Model

The Ontario provincial government has released its framework to regulate the use and sale of recreational cannabis. Although additional legislation is scheduled to be tabled by the Ontario government later this fall, this framework serves as a reference for other provinces that are still considering how to address the legalization of recreational cannabis in their own regions. A summary of the key issues that affect local governments in the framework follows.

1. Minimum Age and Youth Possession – The minimum age to purchase or consume recreational cannabis will be 19 years old. This is more restrictive than the federal minimum age of 18, and proposed federal possession limits of up to 30 grams for adults, and up to 5 grams people under 18 years old.

2. Public Places – Smoking, including cannabis or marijuana, will continue to be illegal in any public space, including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles.

3. Retail Regulation – Ontario aims to ensure that there will be only one legal retailer in the province. Cannabis will only be sold online and through stores that are a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The province pledged to open 40 stores next year and a total of 150 separate locations to sell legal weed across the province by 2020.

4. Retail Sales – Dedicated stores will be set up to sell only cannabis. Cannabis will not be sold alongside alcohol. All sales are to be assisted via counter service, and there will be no self-service. All products are to be stored, packed, and distributed in a safe and controlled manner.

5. Dispensaries & Enforcement - Unauthorized dispensaries will continue to be illegal. The province expects to actively enforce the law and close any illegal dispensaries, in coordination with police and the federal government. However, there is no indication of any increased funding for local governments to support such enforcement measures.

In BC, the provincial government has indicated it intends to engage in consultation prior to implementing its own cannabis framework. Awareness of what is happening in other regions may assist local governments in effectively participating in any consultation initiatives.

Stefanie Ratjen