One million dollars.
That could be the fine slapped on businesses that sell cannabis illegally after the Ontario government installs its own retail network next July – assuming newly tabled legislation goes through.
The proposed law is aimed at eliminating Ontario’s illegal cannabis dispensaries, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said.
"We are going to work very hard towards that," he said.
"We have put very strict penalties in that regards....We feel very comfortable that the regime that we will put in place will be a significant deterrent for these illegal businesses."
Penalties for corporations that continue to sell cannabis illegally will range from $25,000 to $1 million. Individuals caught distributing cannabis illegally – i.e. street dealers – could face fines of up to $250,000 and/or jail of up to two years less a day. This same penalty structure will apply to landlords who knowingly permit illegal cannabis sales on their properties.
The Ontario government announced last month that it would open 150 cannabis retail stores, which will be operated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario under the name ‘Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp.’
The minimum age for purchasing, possessing, growing and using cannabis in Ontario has been set at 19. Those under 19 caught breaking any of these laws could be fined up to $200, or they could be sentenced to complete an educational program.
"I want to be very clear that there will be no criminal record, it's under a provincial offence...our purpose is not to punish our youth but to educate our youth," said Naqvi.
Before introducing the bill, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reaffirmed that the Liberal government is committed to shuttering illegal cannabis dispensaries
"I think that there needs to be a regulation of cannabis and we have a history in this province of regulation of alcohol and I think that doing this in a safe, responsible way means that we put some parameters around the distribution of this substance," she said.
"As resources are identified to deal with enforcement and education we recognize that municipalities need to have a substantial share of that because they are actually on the ground going to be doing enforcement."
If passed, the bill will also ban cannabis consumption in public spaces or workplaces. Medical marijuana patients can rest assured, however, that their medicine will be regulated differently. Medical marijuana consumption will only prohibited in areas where tobacco smoking is already forbidden.
While the Ontario government hasn’t landed on a pricing scale yet, they’ve said any decision will be made in the interest of squashing black market sales.
"This actually isn't about money, from my perspective," Wynne said. "This is about making sure that a substance that needs to be regulated is regulated in a safe and responsible way."
h/t CTV News