In April 2017, the federal government introduced legislation to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis in Canada starting in July 2018.

If passed, the proposed Cannabis Act would create rules for producing, using and selling cannabis across Canada.

Proposed rules

Ontario has introduced the Ontario Cannabis Act which, if passed, along with a number of other new rules, would help protect youth and young adults, keep roads and communities safe, and ensure a safe and sensible approach to cannabis legalization.

19+ only

Ontario is proposing to make it illegal for people under the age of 19 to buy, sell, have and share recreational cannabis.

This is consistent with the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario.

Retail and online ordering

Ontario is proposing that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) oversee the sale and distribution of recreational cannabis through a subsidiary corporation, taking advantage of its experience in distributing controlled substances and commitments to social responsibility.

Through the proposed system, you could buy cannabis:

in stores under strict retailing standards that meet federal requirements for cannabis sales online where products would be delivered securely and safely across the province.

Cannabis will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol.

The regulations include:

  • online distribution to be available across the province by July 2018
  • about 40 stand-alone cannabis stores open by July 2018
  • 80 stores open by July 1, 2019, and 150 stores open by 2020

Additional details about the proposed retail and distribution system will be determined as the province of Ontario continue to works with municipalities, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders.

Retail Stores

Dedicated stores will be set up to sell only cannabis. Cannabis will not be sold alongside alcohol.

Trained and knowledgeable staff will sell products in a safe and socially-responsible manner to restrict access for minors and give consumers the information they need.

These stores will operate with the same socially-responsible retailing standards that apply to alcohol, as well as additional federal requirements for cannabis sales. For example:

Ontario will comply with federal requirements that restrict advertising, do not permit products to be visible to youth and require a behind-the-counter type of retail environment similar to how tobacco is now sold.

All sales will be assisted via counter service, and there will be no self-service. Retail staff will follow strict requirements for age verification.

There will be mandatory training for retail staff. Staff will have knowledge of the individual products and public health information about how to use cannabis responsibly.

Product types and formats will need to meet the federal government's requirements, including forthcoming federal regulations on packaging and labelling information.

Ontario will work closely with municipalities to consider community priorities when choosing store locations (e.g., proximity to schools).

Illicit cannabis dispensaries, including those representing themselves as legal retailers of medical cannabis, are now and will continue to be illegal under the new rules.

Ontario will work with and support law enforcement to shut down these illegal operations.

Medical cannabis can only be purchased directly from a federally licensed producer online or over the phone and delivered by secure mail. This federal program would continue under the new model.

Online sales

Online sales will allow for secure and safe delivery across the province.

Products would be stored, packed and distributed in a safe and controlled manner. All of the same delivery safeguards that exist now for online alcohol sales would apply, including:

  • ID checks
  • signatures upon delivery
  • no packages left unattended at the door.

Limiting use in public

To protect the health and well-being of everyone in Ontario, especially children, youth and other vulnerable populations, the province has proposed restrictions on where cannabis could be used, including limiting exposure to second-hand smoke and vapour. This would be similar to Ontario’s existing laws for alcohol and tobacco.

Under the proposed rules, you would:

  • only be permitted to use recreational cannabis in a private residence
  • not be allowed to use recreational cannabis in:
  • any public place
  • workplaces
  • motorized vehicles

People who are authorized to have and use medical cannabis would be subject to the same rules as tobacco smoking and electronic cigarette use.

Medical users would not be allowed to smoke or vape medical cannabis in enclosed workplaces, enclosed public places, motor vehicles and other smoke-free places.

Limited exemptions for medical cannabis smoking and vaping are proposed in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which was also introduced in fall 2017.