Ontario’s ‘Cannabis Act, 2017’: Provincial Control, Million-Dollar Penalties

(iStock/diegograndi)

The Ontario government is one step closer to its goal of overseeing cannabis sales and distribution in the province and shutting down the province’s popular but illegal dispensaries.

Ontario’s Cannabis Act, 2017 gives the provincial government full reign of the cannabis industry.

Ontario’s proposed Cannabis Act, 2017—presented by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in Queen’s Park today—follows through with legislation that gives the provincial government full reins of the cannabis industry.

Under the new regulations, recreational cannabis in Ontario will be sold online and in 40 storefronts that will be open in time for the July 2018 deadline for federal legalization, expanding to 150 stores across the province by 2020.

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An Ontario Liquor Control Board subsidiary called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation will operate the retail spaces. (“OCRC. Get used to it,” as Toronto Star reporter Robert Benzie tweeted.)

Customers will have to be 19 or older to purchase and consume the products. The age limit will also apply to possession, home growing, and use. Smoking in public spaces—including lounges, workplaces or vehicles— will be illegal, and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act will be updated to include vaping and e-cigarettes, in an effort to protect people from second-hand smoke.

Ontario's government announced that it will stamp out black-market dispensaries by 'introducing new provincial offences with strict, escalating penalties.'

Most notably, the provincial government announced that it will stamp out the province’s black-market dispensaries by “introducing new provincial offences with strict, escalating penalties.”

According to CTV News, the fines for cannabis sales outside the legal framework will be up to $250,000 for individuals and/or jail of up to two years less a day, while corporations would face fines of up to $1 million. Ontario will also allow police to shut down spaces they suspect are being used to illegally sell, produce, or distribute marijuana. Landlords who knowingly rent to illegal growers and sellers will also face the strict fines.

As for price, a $10-a-gram price point is being considered for all strains, as a way to deter illegal sales.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne stressed that, contrary to what some might think, the government would not be making huge financial gains from cannabis sales. “This, actually, isn’t about money from my perspective,” Wynne told the Toronto Star. “This is about making sure that a substance that needs to be regulated is regulated in a safe and responsible way. And that’s exactly the approach we are taking.”

Toronto Mayor Tory stressed that all illegal dispensaries will be shut down going forward.

Later this month, Ontario will reveal where the first stores will be located throughout the province. One strict condition is that the retailer not be located near where minors are known to assemble, like elementary schools.

“We will work with municipalities to make sure that they are in places that are appropriate, just as LCBO stores are in places that are appropriate,” Wynne said.

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As Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Wednesday, the new rules will clear up any confusion about who sells cannabis and how it’s sold: “Make no mistake, this is all about the rule of law. I am very comfortable with the direction in which the Ontario government is going.”

Tory stressed that all illegal dispensaries will be shut down going forward.