2 Oct

A Primer on Ontario’s New Cannabis Legislation

Tuesday, October 2, 2018Jonathan James NehmetallahLitigation, CannabisAlcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Compliance, Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, Marijuana, Cannabis Laws, Ontario

On September 27, 2018, the Ontario government tabled Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018 (the “Act”). The Act contains four schedules and purports to amend various legislation to accommodate the proposed legislation that governs cannabis.

Schedule 2: Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and Related Amendments to Other acts

Schedule 2 of the Act enacts the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and makes related amendments to other Acts. This schedule largely sets out the framework for the upcoming regulations that will govern the retail sale of cannabis in Ontario. Included in the amendments are:

  • The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (“AGCO”), which currently regulates alcohol, gaming, and horse-racing in Ontario, will be the provincial regulator and will administer licenses by utilizing a two-way regulatory approach.
    • This approach will require businesses to obtain a retail operator license or a cannabis retail manager license in addition to a retail store authorization. A separate authorization will be required for each retail store. Only those who are a holder of a retail operator licence may obtain a retail store authorization.
    • A cannabis retail manager licence will be required to carry out specific functions in respect to cannabis retail stores which are outlined in section 5 of Schedule 2 (e.g. supervising or managing employees of a cannabis retail store).
  • Applications for licences and authorizations will be made to the AGCO’s Registrar.
    • When considering an authorization the Registrar will consider, among other things, the public interest, having regard to the needs and wishes of the residents of the municipality.
    • The Registrar will issue public notice of the application, so that members of the community will have a 15-day notice period whereby they can make written submissions regarding their opinions.
    • Ultimately, however, the decision will rest with the AGCO.
  • Municipalities will have the option to opt-out of having cannabis retail stores located within their municipality before January 22, 2019.
    • If a municipality decides to opt-out, they may choose to opt-in at a later time. However, once a municipality has decided to opt-in, they will no longer have the option to opt-out in the future.
  • The AGCO will have broad investigative power in deciding whether or not a licence and/or authorization may be renewed.

In deciding to renew a license or authorization the AGCO may investigate the character, financial history, and competence of any person they deem necessary for purposes of renewal.

Schedule 1 and 4: Amendments to the Cannabis Act, 2017, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and other Acts

Schedule 1 and 4 of the Act introduce amendments to the Cannabis Act, 2017, and the Smoke Free Ontario Act, 2017 (“SFOA”), as well as related amendments to other Acts. Among these amendments are the following key points:

  • Permitting consumption of cannabis products in places where one can currently consume tobacco and e-cigarette products.
  • Although, there will be strict prohibition on consuming cannabis in vehicles or boats, certain vehicles and boats will be exempt. Exemptions include vehicles that are equipped with permanent sleeping and cooking accommodation, are parked and are being used as a residence. In addition, boats that include permanent sleeping, cooking and sanitary facilities, are anchored and are being used as a residence are exempt.
  • Transportation of cannabis in vehicles and on boats will be permitted. However, the cannabis product must either remain in its original packaging and remain un-opened, or be packaged in a manner that does not allow any person on the vehicle or boat easy access to the cannabis product.
  • Consuming cannabis will be strictly prohibited in enclosed public spaces, workplaces, schools, hospitals, etc., subject to exemptions.

Schedule 3: Amendments to the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporations Act, 2017 and the Liquor Control Act

  • The Ontario Cannabis Store (“OCS”) will be the exclusive wholesaler and distributor to private cannabis retail stores.
  • Only the OCS will be permitted to offer the option to purchase cannabis online, with home delivery across the province.
  • The OCS will now report directly to the Minister of Finance, and will no-longer be a subsidiary of the LCBO.
  • It will undergo a name-change and be called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (“OCRC”).

Jonathan Nehmetallah and Christine Jubian 

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