Ontario’s Cannabis Legislation Tabled in Legislature

On November 1, 2017, the Ontario government tabled Bill 174, Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017, which would, if enacted, create the Cannabis Act, 2017 to provide the provincial framework for the upcoming federal Bill C-45, Cannabis Act that will legalize cannabis in Canada in July 1, 2018.

Moreover, the Bill outlines the requirements below and makes consequential amendments to a number of other statutes.

1. Regulates the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of cannabis in the province and includes:

  • Prohibiting anyone who is not a licensed cannabis retailer in Ontario under the proposed Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 from selling cannabis
  • Prohibiting persons under the age of 19 from possessing, consuming, purchasing or attempting to purchase cannabis, which aligns with the Ontario minimum age on alcohol and tobacco use
  • Prohibiting the sale or distribution of cannabis to persons if they are or appear to be intoxicated
  • Prohibiting the consumption of cannabis in a public place, a workplace within the meaning of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a vehicle or boat, or any prescribed place. Exceptions may exist for persons who consume cannabis for medical purposes, subject to any prohibitions or restrictions under the proposed Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 and its regulations
  • Prohibiting landlords from knowingly allowing their properties to be used for unlawful sale, cultivation or distribution of cannabis
  • Authorizing police to vacate premises or temporarily close premises if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Act is being contravened or if a charge is ultimately laid for the unlawful sale or distribution of cannabis, or for knowingly permitting such activities

In addition, subject to certain exceptions, imposing a fine for an offence under the Act of not more than $250,000 for a corporation and, for an individual, not more than $100,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both. This would address the existing illicit market and illegal storefront dispensaries.

2. Repeals the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015 and replaces them with a proposed Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which includes:

  • Requiring every employer, with respect to an enclosed workplace or designated area over which the employer has control, to ensure that no person smokes or holds lighted tobacco, smokes or holds lighted medical cannabis, uses an electronic cigarette, or consumes a designated product or substance, subject to certain exceptions such as controlled use areas in long-term care homes, and designated hotels rooms
  • Requiring every employer to give notice to each employee in the enclosed workplace or designated area of the foregoing prohibitions
  • Requiring every employer to post any prescribed signs respecting the prohibitions throughout the enclosed workplace, place or area, including washrooms
  • Ensuring that a person who refuses to comply with the prohibitions does not remain in the enclosed workplace or place or area
  • Prohibiting employers or persons acting on their behalf from retaliating against an employee who has sought enforcement of this Act
  • Permitting the Minister to appoint inspectors for the purpose of determining compliance with the Act
  • Establishing fines for non-compliance with the Act
  • Prohibiting smoking tobacco, having lighted tobacco, using an electronic cigarette or having an activated electronic cigarette while another person who is less than 16 years old is present in a vehicle
  • Prohibiting smoking medical cannabis, having lighted medical cannabis, using an electronic cigarette containing medical cannabis or having an activated electronic cigarette containing medical cannabis in a motor vehicle
  • Prohibiting the consumption of a prescribed product or substance, in a prescribed manner, or having a prescribed product or substance in a motor vehicle

Home health-care workers are protected from second-hand smoke from the use of tobacco, medical cannabis, electronic cigarettes and prescribed products and substances in their presence.

3. Amends the Highway Traffic Act relating to impairment by cannabis and road safety, which includes:

  • Imposing strict penalties on young, commercial and novice drivers who are impaired by cannabis when driving, including licence suspension, monetary penalties and mandatory treatment programs. Moreover, if a driver contravenes the condition, the driver is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine between $60 and $500. In addition, the driver’s licence of a young driver is suspended for 30 days, and the driver’s licence of a novice driver may be suspended, cancelled or changed by the Registrar in accordance with the regulations
  • Other provisions of the Act are amended as well. For example, the maximum fine for contravention of the Act or regulation is increased from $500 to $1000

4. Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to state that the right to equal treatment with respect to goods because of age is not infringed upon by the provisions of the upcoming Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017.

5. Amend the Education Act to include the requirement to discourage the use of alcohol, illegal drugs and, except by a medical cannabis user, cannabis as one of the purposes of a code of conduct established by the Minister, among other things.

6. Create the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 which would, among other things, set out the powers and duties of the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation which will have the exclusive right to sell cannabis in Ontario.

What does this mean?

When enacted, the Bill will have a significant impact on the recreational cannabis market in Ontario and imposes obligations on employers and proprietors with respect to the places where the prohibitions apply.

Sections of the Act will come in force at various dates after receiving royal assent. Other details of Ontario’s approach would be set by regulation after passage of the legislation, and following consultation with municipalities, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders.

In addition, establishing cannabis retail stores in Ontario communities is subject to consultation with municipal governments so that community interests are reflected in location decisions. Under the proposed approach, approximately 150 standalone stores will be opened by 2020, including 40 stores by July 2018 and rising to 80 by July 2019. Online distribution will also be available to service all regions of the province.

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