Ontario Legislature Tabling New Cannabis Retail Framework Legislation
On September 26, 2018 Attorney General and the Minister of Finance released highly anticipated information regarding the proposed legislation on private cannabis retail store ownership. The legislation is expected to be released this morning with regulations to follow.
According to the proposed legislation the Ontario Cannabis Store (“OCS”) will be the exclusive wholesaler and distributor of cannabis to private cannabis retail stores and will be the sole option for individuals to purchase cannabis online. The OCS will report directly to the Minister of Finance, and will no-longer be a subsidiary of the LCBO. Further, it will undergo a name-change and be called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (“OCRC”).
The proposed legislation will also offer insight into how licenses will be regulated. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (“AGCO”), will be the provincial regulator and will not only be authorized to grant store licenses, but will have authority to revoke them in order to enforce compliance with conditions set by the province.
Private cannabis retail will be incorporated in the existing public framework by utilizing a two-way regulatory approach. This approach will require businesses to obtain both a retail operating license and a retail store authorization from the AGCO for every retail store they will own. Further, there will be no cap placed on the number of cannabis retail licenses that may be issued in Ontario. However, there will be limits on the number of licenses issued to a single corporation. That number is yet to be determined and should be included in the final regulations.
With a proposed 15-day notice period the public will be kept informed and consulted on where private cannabis retailers will be located. Further, the proposed legislation will also afford municipalities an one-time option to opt-out of having cannabis retail stores in their communities before January 22, 2019 and will allow the province to place distance buffers between cannabis stores and schools.
Current cannabis retail owners operating in the black market who do not close-up shop before October 17, 2018, will be subject to enforcement and will lose their opportunity to obtain any private cannabis retail license in the future as they will be in direct violation of the new legislation.
The Ontario Government proposed amendments to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act so that recreational users may smoke cannabis in areas where smoking tobacco and e-cigarettes are permitted. Prohibitions will be placed on smoking cannabis in motor vehicles or boats in order to ensure public safety. However, smoking cannabis may be permitted in certain enclosed workplaces such as long-term care homes, hospices and designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns.
We will keep you posted on the latest developments as they come in.