On August 13, 2018, the recently elected Ontario government made an announcement regarding the retail model for the sale of cannabis in Ontario following the legalization of cannabis effective October 17, 2018. Employers are recommended to become aware of this development so they can be more prepared when dealing with issues pertaining to marijuana in the workplace.
More specifically, as you may recall, I wrote in several posts here, here, here, and here explaining that the Senate gave Royal Assent to the Cannabis Act (Bill-C-45), the government created regulations in order to facilitate the implementation of the Act, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the legislation will become effective October 17, 2018. In these posts, I discussed the implications for employers who will be dealing with issues related to marijuana in the workplace in the very near future.
This post concerns the recent announcement by the Ontario government clarifying how cannabis will be sold in Ontario. Following the legalization of cannabis on October 17, there will immediately be an online retail channel for cannabis. Subsequently, there will be a private retail model that is implemented by April 1, 2019.
The Ontario Cannabis Store
Firstly, effective October 17, 2018, individuals who are 19 years old and above will be able to purchase cannabis and accessories through the online retail platform provided by the Ontario Cannabis Store (the online sales will be available through www.ocs.ca but it is not yet live). These products will initially include dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, and cannabis accessories; however, the Ontario Cannabis Store will not be selling edibles until the federal government makes them legal.
The Ontario Cannabis Store is a subsidiary of the LCBO. While the LCBO will continue to deal with the business of alcohol sales, the Ontario Cannabis Store will be ensuring that cannabis products are stored, packaged and distributed in a safe and controlled manner. This will entail remaining in compliance with federal packaging and quality assurance rules. Delivery practices will include identification checks to meet age restrictions and a required signature upon delivery (it will not be possible to leave unattended packages at the door). Currently, there is no set delivery partner – the government will be announcing this entity in the near future.
The private retail model
Secondly, effective April 1, 2019, a private retail model for selling cannabis will be in place. At this time, the government intends to begin consultations immediately regarding implementation of this model. These consultations will involve municipalities, indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, businesses and consumer groups, and representatives of the other provinces who also have a private retail scheme. At this point, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are also planning to have a private model for retail storefronts selling cannabis.
Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli stated:
“The Government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores…Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market”
Strict penalties for noncompliance
Certain things will not be tolerated, and there will be penalties for noncompliance that increase in severity with each instance of noncompliance.
That is, there will be a zero-tolerance policy for retailers or dispensaries who continue to operate in the illicit markets, individuals who drive under the influence of cannabis (as well as other drugs), and young, novice or commercial drivers who are impaired from cannabis use.
Additionally, it will not acceptable to share, sell, or provide cannabis to anyone who is under the age of 19 years.
Attorney General Caroline Mulroney stated:
“We will be ready to put in place a safe, legal system for cannabis retail that will protect consumers…We will also be ready to undermine the illegal market and protect Ontario’s roads. Most importantly of all, we will be ready to protect our kids”
The government also confirmed that it will be providing municipalities with the one-time window where they can choose to opt out of allowing physical cannabis retail stores within their boundaries.
In order to ensure safety, the government will be using the Official Ontario Cannabis Retailer Seal in order to identify licensed retailers and providers so consumers can know they are purchasing federally quality controlled products from a legitimate retailer.
Lastly, the government emphasized that Ontarians will only be allowed to use recreational cannabis in a private residence, including the outdoor space of a home. Recreational cannabis use will not be allowed in any public spaces, workplaces or motorized vehicles.
What does this mean for Ontarians?
This plan replaces that of the previous Liberal government; therefore, there is no longer an intention of creating a provincial monopoly on cannabis sales with an aim of establishing 150 stores by 2020.
It is recommended that employers become aware of these developments and note that Ontarians will only be allowed to use recreational cannabis in a private residence, including the outdoor space of a home. Recreational cannabis use will not be allowed in any public spaces, workplaces or motorized vehicles.