While thousands of Canadians line up at private and government-owned dispensaries, residents of Ontario will have a much different experience. What can Ontario residents expect as legal weed rolls out in their province? Let’s take a look.
The World Watches
On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis, after Uruguay in 2013. It’s a sort of grand experiment, as Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories spread over nearly four million square miles where recreational weed has been prohibited for nearly a century. Prime Minister Trudeau officially legalized cannabis in October after Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act, was approved by the Senate earlier this year.
Canada’s approach to legalization has caught the attention of governments and investors around the world. Legalization, as opposed to decriminalization, allows for industry banking, inter-province shipping, online ordering and postal delivery. It also allows for exportation of the goods, which is a boon for about 30 countries worldwide that have legalized medical use of the plant but have limited grow operations.
Canada’s weed laws will also be a test of the impact of legalization on black market sales, tax revenue and job creation. And while C-45 is a broad-based law, provinces have the power to further regulate the sale, taxation and distribution of the product.
While legalization is a huge first step, only certain cannabis products are permitted under the Act as currently written. Fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, plants and seeds for cultivation will be available initially. Parliament plans to discuss regulations for edible products and concentrates in 2019.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Ontario makes up 40 percent of the cannabis market in Canada, but residents will have the most restrictive experience — at least until April 2019. In a last-minute change to key cannabis policies, the Conservative government opted out of planned government-owned stores in favor of private pot shops. Licensing regulations are not yet solidified, and stores won’t be able to open until spring. However, once brick-and-mortar stores are permitted, the Ontario government will not restrict the number of licenses available. While other provinces are expected to have up to 100 stores, experts project upwards of 500 dispensaries in Ontario.
In the meantime, residents can order from an online cannabis store called the Ontario Cannabis Store, or OCS, which is run by a government agency. Packages are shipped via Canada Post in discreet packaging that must be hand-delivered to a resident over the age of 19. Packages will not be left on doorsteps or in mailboxes, and credit card statements will not include the word cannabis.
While the federal minimum age to use, buy or possess marijuana is 18 years old, most provinces have set the age of legal consumption at 19, which is in line with the minimum age for the sale of alcohol and tobacco. Only Alberta and Quebec are keeping the federal minimum.
How To Use the OCS
While Ontario residents await the opening of recreational dispensaries, they can enjoy home delivery of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis at a time. The online store is run by Shopify, Inc., which promises to collect as little consumer data as possible and will ensure the data remains in Canada. Shoppers will be asked to verify that they are over age 19 three times before completing their purchase. However, no proof of age is required until delivery of the product. Anyone over age 19 can sign for the package as long as they live in the residence.
The OCS website also provides educational resources to consumers regarding plant facts, choosing the right product, and information regarding consumption. This detailed information was made available prior to legalization at OCSlearn.ca. The website also allows consumers to filter products based on their preferences, including information regarding THC and CBD levels.
Ontario residents are allowed to smoke or vape cannabis in private residences, many outdoor public spaces, designated hotel rooms and other controlled areas as detailed in the provincial bylaws. Municipalities may place additional restrictions on the use of cannabis, and employers and property owners may have stricter policies as well. Consumers are allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, or just over an ounce, in public.
Following national guidelines, Ontario will allow up to four recreational plants to be grown per household, and there is no limit to the quantity of cannabis one can possess in their home. The government has also bolstered laws and punishments for cannabis-related offenses such as illegal distribution, impaired driving and border crossing.
Legislators plan to revisit the laws in 2019, encouraging residents to be patient as adjustments are made based on this initial learning period.