Authorities in Ontario today provided some much anticipated clarification on the province’s rules regarding cannabis retail shops and public cannabis consumption. Officials say Ontario will treat marijuana smoking the same as cigarette smoking, covering both under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. But some restrictions will still apply to cannabis only, and offenses will carry hefty fines.
Ontario’s general election in June shifted the balance of power among the competing parties. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party emerged with a 76 seat majority in the 124-member parliament. And almost immediately upon taking office, incumbents announced a series of changes to Ontario’s cannabis regulations. Those changes represent a significant departure from the approach the previous Liberal government had established.
Previously, Ontario had planned to operate all cannabis retail stores under the control of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The rationale from the Liberal government was that the LCBO could better manage and regulate supply. The Liberal government had also planned to prohibit the public consumption of cannabis, raising concerns about where of-age persons could legally smoke cannabis if their apartment or residence banned smoking.
Earlier this summer, Progressive Conservatives announced Ontario would permit privately owned and operated cannabis retail stores in addition to LCBO-controlled shops. But the move had the effect of delaying the start of retail sales by nearly six months. So while the rest of Canada can begin purchasing cannabis legally on October 17, Ontario residents will have to wait until April 1, 2019. It will still be possible to purchase cannabis from the LCBO online, however.
Today, Ford’s provincial government clarified how Ontario would handle the question of public cannabis consumption. Taking a cue from provinces like Alberta, Ontario will allow people to smoke cannabis anywhere it’s lawful to smoke tobacco. In fact, both tobacco and cannabis will fall under the rules of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act came in to force on July 1 this year. It prohibits smoking on outdoor patios at bars or restaurants, childcare facilities or anywhere health care workers work like hospitals and enclosed common areas like hotel lobbies. But while the Act prohibits smoking tobacco in motor vehicles only if children are present, it prohibits cannabis smoking in motor vehicles (including boats) under any circumstances. Everywhere else in public that doesn’t fall under one of the Act’s restrictions, however, is fair game for cannabis smokers. So beginning October 17, Ontario’s parks and public streets might become a little more aromatic.
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