Following shortly after the Ontario government’s passage of legislation regarding the use, sale and distribution of recreational cannabis in Ontario in December 2017, the province has unveiled a number of regulatory proposals on which it seeks public feedback. Among other things, the proposals seek to clarify where cannabis can be consumed and notably, solicit feedback on the possibility of permitting “licensed and regulated cannabis consumption lounges and venues” following legalization.
The proposals also include regulations covering smoking and vaping, road safety and retail and distribution with respect to the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017. Public comments will be accepted through the Ontario Regulatory Registry website until March 5, 2018, although comments on the retail and distribution points will only be accepted until February 7, 2018.
For further information on Ontario’s new legislation for the regulation of recreational cannabis, Bill 174, Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017 (Bill), please see our November 2017 Blakes Bulletin: Ontario Introduces New Legislation to Regulate Recreational Cannabis.
This bulletin summarizes these regulatory proposals as well as some additional regulatory and legislative proposals from other provinces and territories.
ONTARIO’S NEW REGULATORY PROPOSALS
Places of Use
Most notable among the proposed regulations amending the Cannabis Act, 2017, which seek to clarify where recreational and cannabis can be consumed, was the announcement that the Ministry of the Attorney General (Ministry) is proactively looking at post-legalization approaches. These approaches would, among other things, permit licensed and regulated cannabis consumption lounges and venues and permit owners or operators of multi-unit dwellings to designate outdoor areas for the consumption of recreational cannabis.
Further proposals included those permitting the use of recreational cannabis in the following places:
- Hotel, motel and inn rooms (a proposal that will be sure to garner support from the province’s tourist industry)
- Motor vehicles and boats that are used as private residences
- Private residences that are also workplaces, subject to some conditions.
With respect to medical cannabis, the Ministry of the Attorney General proposed to prohibit users from using medical cannabis in any form while driving/having control of a vehicle or boat. However, medical cannabis users would be permitted to consume cannabis, provided it is not smoked or vaped, when the user is a passenger, and not the driver, in a vehicle or a boat. Medical cannabis users that satisfy certain conditions would also be exempt from the prohibition on transporting cannabis.
Recreational cannabis users will be prohibited from consuming cannabis in public or private schools, child care centres and any place where child care services are provided. Further, the proposed regulations would restrict the smoking or vaping of recreational cannabis in any indoor or outdoor common area in a condominium, apartment building and university or college residence, although the use of other forms of recreational cannabis would not be restricted in those areas.
Cannabis Retail and Distribution
The proposed regulations under the Cannabis Act, 2017, Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017, Pay Equity Act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act concern the following areas:
- Supply chain and other exemptions: the regulations propose a number of supply chain exemptions that, among other things, will allow legitimate supply chain actors (i.e., the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), federally authorized entities, authorized retailers in other jurisdictions, service providers, personal cannabis importation and industrial hemp industry participants) to carry out the activities necessary to support and operate the legal cannabis retail and distribution system within Ontario and other jurisdictions
- Uniform pricing: the regulations propose uniform pricing for all OCRC stores and its online channels
- Anti-diversion measures and record-keeping: in accordance with the proposed federal Cannabis Act, the proposals suggest that the regulations require various physical security and storage standards, hiring standards, employee training in security procedures and standards for contracts with service providers. The proposals also provide that the regulations require the OCRC keep appropriate records in accordance with provincial legal obligations and federal expectations, such as data required for federal tracking of cannabis through the supply chain.
Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017
The rules under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 deal with the smoking and vaping of medical cannabis specifically.
The proposed regulations would amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 to prohibit the smoking or vaping of medical cannabis from the following places: restaurant and bar patios, children’s playgrounds, government-owned sporting areas and the outdoor grounds of government-owned buildings, public or private hospitals and other health facilities. These locations join a number of other places where the smoking or vaping of medical cannabis would already be prohibited, including enclosed public places and workplaces, schools, child care centres and others.
In addition to already imposing obligations on employers and proprietors to ensure compliance with the prohibition on medical cannabis smoking or vaping, the proposed regulations would prescribe rules of evidence for proving in a prosecution that a substance is medical cannabis.
The proposed road safety regulations would amend Schedule 4 of the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017 by, amongst other things, creating a new regulation to define and permit the use of federally approved oral fluid screening devices and requiring zero tolerance drug presence laws for young and novice drivers as well as commercial drivers. In addition, the proposed regulations would ensure appropriate sanctions for impaired driving, such as mandatory education or treatment and ignition interlock requirements for repeat offenders.
The proposed regulations would also ensure that drivers who receive a licence suspension for alcohol or drug impairment or for failing or refusing to comply with alcohol or drug testing are subject to administrative monetary penalties.
On January 8, 2018, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) will issue approximately 60 cannabis retail permits to private operators in 40 municipalities and First Nation communities.
Communities with populations of at least 2,500 will receive the initial allocation of permits, with larger communities receiving additional ones. Eligible municipalities and First Nation communities will have the option to opt out of having a retail store if they choose.
The private sector will conduct the wholesaling and retailing of cannabis, while the SLGA will be in charge of regulating it. Retailers will be required to establish a standalone storefront outlet and will also be permitted to operate an online store, and will be limited to selling cannabis, cannabis accessories and ancillary items.
Specific details regarding application criteria, permit licensing fees and timelines will be finalized in the coming weeks. The Government of Saskatchewan is also expected to reach a decision on the legal age for cannabis consumption this spring.
On November 24, 2017, the Government of the Northwest Territories released a plan regarding its proposed cannabis regime framework following a public engagement process.
Amongst other items, the plan addresses the following:
- Legal age for consumption: 19 years of age.
- Possession: adults 19 and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in a public place. Any youth found with less than five grams of cannabis will face penalties similar to those for underage possession of alcohol or tobacco.
- Distribution: the Northwest Territories Liquor Commission will establish a cannabis distribution system similar to the current liquor distribution system. Initially, cannabis will be sold through liquor stores, with other options for the distribution of cannabis to be explored at a later date.
- Consumption: adults will be allowed to smoke cannabis in their homes and in some public places. Public smoking or vaping of cannabis will be prohibited at cannabis retail outlets and in areas frequented by children and crowds, from vehicles and from any place where tobacco smoking is not allowed. Designated establishments for the consumption of recreational cannabis will not be allowed.
- Growing: adults will be allowed to grow up to four plants per household for personal use.
- Local options for communities: communities will have the option to hold a referendum to decide whether restrictions or prohibitions on cannabis should be put in place, similar to the options available for the restriction of liquor.
Following the release of the plan, the government will begin developing provincial legislation that will be introduced ahead of the federal legalization of cannabis in July 2018.
Prince Edward Island
On December 7, 2017, the Government of Prince Edward Island outlined three new directions related to the implementation of the federal government’s legalization of cannabis.
Specifically, the directions address the following:
- Legal age for consumption: 19 years of age.
- Place of use: initially, cannabis use will be restricted to private residences, but there is a potential for expansion to designated public spaces at a later date.
- Distribution: only dedicated government-owned retail locations and an e-commerce platform will sell and distribute cannabis.
The policy directions are significant steps towards the Government of Prince Edward Island finalizing its provincial cannabis legalization framework. Currently, the government has issued cannabis-related directions regarding impaired driving, possession, transportation, education, supply and retail models.
The Government of Prince Edward Island stated that further directions related to cannabis legalization will follow in the near future.