Ontario Tackling Illicit Market with New Cannabis Legislation

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After becoming the first province to announce its detailed cannabis plan last month, Ontario has introduced its proposed Cannabis Act and it would put an end to existing illegal storefront dispensaries.

The new law would allow police to immediately close businesses they suspect are being used to illegally sell marijuana, CTV News reports. Businesses that continue to sell recreational cannabis after the province sets up its own shops also could be fined up to $1 million under the new legislation. Individuals convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis could face fines of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to two years. 

The new provincial offenses and strict penalties are an effort to eliminate the illicit market, according to a press release from the province’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

The legislation would create a new provincial retailer that will be overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to distribute adult-use cannabis through stand-alone stores and an online order service. The proposed regulations would allow approximately 150 stores to open by 2020, 40 of which will open by July 2018 and 80 of which must be open by July 2019. Online distribution will be available to service the entire province.

The act sets the minimum age to consume, buy, possess and cultivate recreational marijuana at 19. People under the legal age who engage in these activities would be put into programs focused on education and prevention to reduce harm and avoid unnecessary contact with the justice system.

Cannabis use would be banned in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles under the proposed regulations, and the smoking and vaping of medical marijuana would be regulated under the proposed Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

In the coming weeks, municipalities will learn more about where the government wants to locate the first group of retail locations, CTV News reports, but Minister of Finance Charles Sousa has said none will be placed near schools.

The Ontario government also said that decisions on cannabis pricing will be made after additional details come from the federal government, CTV News reports, but the goal is to avoid overly expensive prices that will keep the illicit market alive.

“Our government has announced a safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis,” said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in the press release. “With this bill, we are taking an important step towards implementing an approach that will help eliminate the illegal market, protect young people and keep impaired drivers off the road.”

Other details of the regulations are to be set after the legislation passes and consultations are held with municipalities, indigenous communities and other stakeholders, according to the press release.

“Our proposed legislation provides a controlled and socially responsible approach to the legalization of cannabis,” Sousa said in the press release. “As we move forward, we will work with municipalities to achieve our priorities of protecting young people and combating illicit distribution while providing effective measures to inform consumers on the use of cannabis.”

Top image: © Kostyantin Pankin | Dreamstime.com

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Source: Cannabis Business Times

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