The federal government legalized recreational cannabis on October 17th, 2018, but left it up to the provinces and territories to oversee distribution and sales.
Starting Oct. 17, the province introduced a system for online sales through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) to meet the federal government’s requirements.
- The proposed minimum age to use, purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario will be 19. The use of recreational cannabis will be prohibited in public places and workplaces.
- Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not and will not be legal retailers. The province will pursue a coordinated and proactive enforcement strategy, working with municipalities, local police services, the OPP and the federal government to help shut down these illegal operations.
- Ontario will prohibit individuals under the age of 19 from possessing or consuming recreational cannabis, which will allow police to confiscate small amounts of cannabis from young people. The province’s approach to protecting youth will focus on prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.
The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) does not operate any storefronts but provides an online channel that includes an age-verification system to ensure safe home delivery of cannabis products. The OCS also acts as a wholesale supplier for private retailers.
The Ontario government has released regulations that will route the startup of private cannabis stores on April 1, 2019. A market concentration limit of 75 stores per operator has been set.
As the government has indicated, given the shortage of legal cannabis supply from federally licensed producers, it has changed the approach to how private retail stores will be allocated. Due to this limited supply, the government will allow private cannabis retail stores to open in phases, by providing authority for the AGCO to license up to 25 stores in the initial phase.
The government has made a new regulation under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 that allows a lottery system to be implemented to determine who will be able to apply for one of the 25 initial stores. The AGCO will run the lottery and it will be overseen by a third-party fairness monitor. People who wish to participate in the lottery will do so by submitting Expressions of Interest, online, from January 7-9, 2019. As a result, the AGCO will not begin accepting applications for cannabis retail licences and authorizations on December 17, as had previously been announced.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa estimates that Ontario will collect 40 per cent of the provinces’ share of tax revenue. That would mean about $120 million, based on forecasts announced in Ottawa in December 2017.