The Canadian Cannabis Act

Production, Retail and Use of Legal Recreational Cannabis

Canada’s Cannabis Act and the regulations that support it will come into force on October 17, 2018. The Cannabis Act will legalize, regulate and restrict access to recreational cannabis in Canada. As a response to the federal government’s Cannabis Act coming into force, Ontario’s Bill 174 (which received Royal Assent on December 12, 2017) enacted the Cannabis Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017, repealed and replaced the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 and amended the Highway Traffic Act. Ontario’s legislation proposes to regulate the retail and distribution of cannabis in the province, as well as limit the use of marijuana by youths, in public places and in motor vehicles.


Legal Production of Recreational Marijuana under the Federal Government’s Cannabis Act

All producers of cannabis or cannabis products will need to be federally licensed in order to operate. The application processes and criteria for those individuals or entities who wish to become producers of legal recreational cannabis will be similar to that currently applicable for producers of medical cannabis. Regulations under the federal Cannabis Act will require strict physical and personnel security requirements for license holders, plain packaging for cannabis products, and strict requirements for logos, colours and branding. Cannabis products must also be labelled with mandatory health warnings, the standardized cannabis symbol, and specific information about the product.


Cannabis Legalization in Ontario

Ontario’s cannabis legislation will operate in conjunction with the federal Cannabis Act to regulate the retail, use and distribution of cannabis in the province.

In Ontario, the minimum age is 19 for anyone to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis (the federal statute criminalizes the sale or supply of cannabis to anyone under the age of 18).

Currently, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 requires that recreational cannabis be sold in Ontario only through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (the “OCRC”), a Crown corporation which will operate under the oversight of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government, under Premier Doug Ford, has recently announced that when the sale of recreational cannabis becomes legal on October 17, 2018, people aged 19 and over will be able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. Consumers will be required to verify their age to accept delivery and no package will be left unattended at the door. Each person will only be allowed to purchase 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of dried recreational cannabis at one time for personal use. The online store will be the only option for purchasing legal recreational marijuana in Ontario, until the government introduces new legislation, which, if passed, will allow private stores to sell recreational cannabis. The private retail option is expected to launch by April 1, 2019.


The penalty for selling or distributing cannabis illegally or allowing one’s property to be used to sell or distribute illegal cannabis is a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or up to two years in prison for a first conviction. Corporations convicted of such offences will face a maximum fine of up to $1 million.

In Ontario, the legal use of recreational cannabis is limited to private residences (including a home’s porch or backyard). The smoking or use of cannabis in public places, including in motorized vehicles, at workplaces and the reserved seating areas of sporting arenas is prohibited. The exceptions to this are in controlled-used areas in long-term care homes and designated hotel rooms. The use of cannabis in public can result in a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences.

Starting October 17, 2018, cannabis seeds can be purchased from the Ontario Cannabis Store, and up to four plants can be legally grown per residence (not per person).

The rules pertaining to the sale of medical cannabis is different than those for recreational cannabis. The federal government regulates the production and sale of medical cannabis exclusively. Medical cannabis can only be purchased from a federally license producer.

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