The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) says it will manage approximately 150 standalone cannabis retail stores, the Government of Ontario confirmed on Friday. The stores will be part of the province’s “safe and sensible framework” that aims to manage marijuana legalization when it is introduced before July 2018.
Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance and Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, issued a joint press release that said new legislation will be introduced this year.
“Ontario’s approach to the legalization of cannabis will be informed by the province’s experience in managing tobacco and alcohol, as well as practical lessons of other jurisdictions that have recently legalized cannabis,” the release said, adding that Ontario is “committing to a safe and sensible framework to govern the lawful use and retail of recreational cannabis as a carefully controlled substance within the province.”
Key elements of the framework include:
- The proposed minimum age to use, purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario will be 19. The use of recreational cannabis will be allowed in “private residences” and prohibited in public places, workplaces or when inside a motor vehicle;
- The LCBO will oversee the legal retail of cannabis in Ontario through new standalone cannabis stores and an online order service. This approach will ensure that there will be only one legal retail distributor for cannabis in Ontario and alcohol and cannabis are not sold alongside each other;
- Approximately 150 standalone stores will be opened by 2020, including 80 by July 1, 2019, servicing all regions of the province. Online distribution will be available across the province from July 2018 onward and the “same delivery safeguards that exist now for online alcohol sales would apply,” including ID checks, signatures upon delivery and no packages left unattended at the door;
- Illicit cannabis dispensaries “are not and will not be” legal retailers. The province will pursue a coordinated enforcement strategy, working with municipalities, local police services, the Ontario Provincial Police and the federal government to help shut down these illegal operations; and
- 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.”