Following federal legislation introduced in the House of Commons in April to legalize and regulate the sale and distribution of cannabis on or before July 1st, 2018, Ontario has become the first province or territory to announce a framework that will manage the use and sale of legal cannabis, including online ordering and distribution as of July 1st, 2018, and opening approximately 150 storefronts by 2020. The proposed minimum age for the use, purchase, and possession of recreational cannabis will be 19.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi says that the framework will hopefully end the sale of “illegal, unregulated and unsafe cannabis,” as illegal cannabis retailers will be replaced by legal outlets and closed with the help of local police, the OPP, and the federal government.
The sale of cannabis will be overseen by the LCBO, although the drug will be sold in its own separate retail space and not alongside alcohol. As with cigarettes, cannabis products will not be visible to the public, and there will be no self-service available, as trained retail staff will sell the recreational drug from behind a counter. Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, recreational cannabis use will only be permitted in private residences and not in public, in cars, or in the workplace.
Online sales will require legitimate IDs, signatures at delivery, and no packages will be left unattended upon delivery.
Premiers met in Edmonton in July to discuss the federal proposal. With a plan to report back by November 1st, the premiers requested that legalization be postponed by the federal government if concerns related to road safety, taxation, training for distributors, and public education are not sufficiently resolved by the proposed 2018 deadline.
The plan has faced criticism from the Green Party’s Mike Shreiner, who claims that limited retail outlets for cannabis won’t effectively challenge the “huge illegal market.” Cannabis activists have also voiced their concern over the government profiting from legal cannabis after having fought its legalization for years.
Other concerns include those over health, expense, and how the government plans to use money from cannabis sales. As suggested by Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, “all revenue should fund mental health and addictions services in Ontario because there is a correlation between cannabis consumption and mental health and addictions issues.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that his federal government intends to stick to the July 2018 deadline.