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Feb 22, 2019

How the Cannabis Act affects Ontarians

By: Donald Barrie

This article was originally published in Mosaic Newsletter for Fall 2018 / Winter 2019.

Cannabis became legalized in Canada for medical and recreational purposes on October 17, 2018. Federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for overseeing the proposed new system. Medical cannabis is subject to different rules than recreational cannabis, and its regulations continue to be the sole responsibility of the federal government.

In regards to recreational cannabis, the federal government is responsible for setting strict requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis. Provinces and territories are responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. While the passage of Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, came as great news to some people, it left some details to be worked out at the provincial level, and has continued the controversy regarding the health risks and benefits of cannabis.

In Ontario, the minimum age to buy and consume recreational cannabis is 19 years. Recreational cannabis is only allowed to be used in a private residence and cannot be used in public places, workplaces or within motorized vehicles. Breaking these rules will result in penalties. The federally mandated public possession limit of 30 grams of dried cannabis has been maintained across the country, and up to four plants may be grown for personal use. The effects of cannabis on users can lead to impaired driving, and an increased risk of accidents. As of June 2018, however, there is no government-approved roadside testing technology for cannabis There is also no consensus on how much cannabis can be consumed before it leads to impairment.

Some of these regulations in Ontario may change as a result of the new conservative government having been elected. The previous liberal government had planned to give the LCBO a monopoly on the sale of cannabis through cannabis stores. However, the new government has allowed private stores, such as Shoppers Drug Mart, to sell cannabis granted with a license from the LCBO. It is unclear if changes will be made in relation to the online sales of cannabis (which was previously to be regulated by the cannabis stores).

Concerns have continued to be raised about cannabis. The Canadian Medical Association wrote in a statement to Global News in 2016 that it has had “longstanding concerns about the health risks associated with consuming cannabis, particularly in smoked form. Children and youth are particularly at risk for cannabis-related harms, given their brains are undergoing rapid, extensive development.” On June 27, however, Health Canada announced that the current system for users of medical cannabis will remain in place.

Other concerns expressed by medical associations include the potential harm to those people at risk of developing a mental illness. There are also risks of developing an addiction, and as such, cannabis should not be viewed as a substitute for managing anxiety or controlling depression-related symptoms. In addition, some people who smoke cannabis can experience psychotic episodes.

Additionally, people working in the cannabis industry could possibly face obstacles when visiting countries that have not legalized cannabis. The USA, for example, may issue permanent travel bans on Canadians employed in the cannabis industry, starting in 2019. 

There are some people, including those in the medical community, who believe that the federal government rushed the bill without doing the necessary research. The federal government contends that legalization needed to be achieved as quickly as possible, with the goal of strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis, in order to protect young people and prevent organized crime from profiting from illegal cannabis.


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