With the ouster of Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal Party in the June 7, 2018, Ontario provincial general election and the ascension of Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives, plans for the legalization of adult use marijuana were thrown into flux as the Oct. 17, 2018, legalization date approached.
Ford’s government has quickly scrapped the previous plan to have the government operate cannabis storefronts. Ontario was also late to the table in deciding wholesale distribution for Canada’s most populous province. In late August 2018, the Ontario Cannabis Store secured agreements with 26 producers for distribution.
While general public consumption is banned, discussion of lounges and other places where cannabis can be smoked is ongoing.
The new legislation remained a work in progress as the date for national legalization approaches.
Guided in part by an initial public survey, the government has set a minimum age of 19 for purchase and consumption of cannabis. Ontario also installed stiff penalties for impaired driving. Of more than 53,000 respondents to the survey, 86 percent supported the minimum age of 19, and 61 percent favored tough impaired driving penalties.
Driving while impaired is illegal and Ontario is imposing added regulations to those of the federal government.
Among those are a zero-tolerance for drivers 21 or younger, and novice drivers of any age. for both cannabis and alcohol. For individuals suspected of driving under the influence or showing signs of impairment, penalties include an immediate three (3)-day suspension and $250 fine beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Those convicted in court face a 30-day license suspension, and fines of $60 to $500 in addition to federal penalties.
Under federal guidelines, drivers face graduated penalties depending on levels of cannabis and/or alcohol concentrations, along with previous offenses.
Federally, the legal limit for THC in the bloodstream is 2 nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Concentrations between 2 and 5 nonograms result in a fine up to $1,000. Concentrations of 5 or more nanograms will result in a $1,000 minimum fine on the first offense, imprisonment of 30 days or more on a second offense, and 120 days or more on a third offense. Penalties for drug-impaired driving accidents can range from 18 months to as much as life in prison after a fatal incident.
How to Purchase
When legalization takes effect, consumers in Ontario will only be able to purchase adult use cannabis online through the public Ontario Cannabis Store, a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board. The organization is the sole online retailer for adult-use cannabis. The store maintains a website that updates the legalization process in Ontario.
After ditching the Liberal Party’s plan that would have opened a small number of public cannabis storefronts in the first year, Ford’s government intends to introduce legislation that will allow private retailers to open stores by April 1, 2019.
The Progressive Conservative government plans to put in place a “tightly regulated private retail model.” However, details such as the number of private retailers, required training for employees, have yet to be hashed out.
According to lawmakers, municipalities will have a one-time window to opt out of allowing cannabis retailers.
Customers are permitted to buy a maximum of 30 grams, slightly more and one ounce, of dried cannabis at one time.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Smoking recreational cannabis is permitted wherever smoking tobacco is allowed. It will be allowed in private residences, including porches and backyards. Renters can smoke inside units or balconies unless prohibited by lease or property agreements.
Breaking those rules can be punishable by a $1,000 fine for a first offense and $5,000 for subsequent violations.
Universities are considering their approaches, although many already have smoke-free policies for tobacco and vaping that will extend to cannabis.
Proprietors and supporters of existing lounges, where medical marijuana has been consumed, hope to be allowed to permit adult-use marijuana.
It is illegal to consume cannabis while operating a vehicle for either drivers or passengers. The law applies regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion. In a vehicle, cannabis must be stored in a sealed container that is not accessible during transport to drivers or passengers.
Possession Information and Limits
The legal age to buy or possess cannabis in Ontario is 19, which is the same age for alcohol and tobacco. Consumers will be limited to 30 grams per transaction.
The province allows possession by adults of up to 30 grams, or a little more than one ounce (1 oz), of cannabis in a public place. The national government has set equivalencies for one (1) gram of dried cannabis to equal five (5) grams of fresh cannabis; 15 grams, or one-half ounce (0.5 oz) of edibles; 70 milliliters, or 2.35 fluid ounces, of liquid; 0.25 grams of concentrate; and one (1) plant seed.
Premade edibles and extracts will not be available until one year after the legislation is passed, although consumers can create their own edibles as they wish.
No limit has been established for the amount of marijuana that can be stored in a home.
By federal law, patients using medical marijuana are allowed to have up to 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces — 30 times the daily dose prescribed by an authorized health-care practitioner, either an authorized physician or nurse practitioner — of dried marijuana or its equivalent.
to Be to Consume?
Ontario follows the federal government’s guidance and allows residents to grow up to four (4) plants per household regardless of the number of adult occupants. These limits are separate from approved, licensed, and home-grown medical marijuana, which is governed by national laws.
Thousands of Canadians are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana. Until the new law is passed, Canadians must the qualify for the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which came into effect Aug. 24, 2016.
Recipients must provide medical documentation confirming the diagnosis by a health-care practitioner.
Patients must not be convicted of a marijuana-related offense and can be registered only once at a time.
Generally, patients can qualify for medical marijuana under two categories. One is to allow for compassionate end-of-life care, for alleviating pain symptoms relating to illnesses and injuries, or for side effects from cancer or HIV/AIDS medications. The second category is for patients suffering from other persistent debilitating symptoms. Among the ailments Health Canada lists as possibly qualifying are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Back and neck conditions
- Brain injury
- Chronic nausea
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure, including patients receiving dialysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Vehicular crashes
Information on eligibility and applying is available at the Canadian government’s medical marijuana website.
Authorized caregivers are allowed to possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil, and may transfer or administer the substance or provide a medical document. They may also transfer substances to an individual who is responsible for the patient under his or her professional treatment.
This page was last updated September 26, 2018.