Ontario Just Tabled a Weed Law That Makes It Almost Impossible to Blaze Anywhere

What is even the point?

by Manisha Krishnan
Nov 1 2017, 10:05pm

Photos via Facebook/Getty

Ontario just tabled its bill for regulating and selling weed in the province and it makes it impossible to legally consume recreational weed outside of a private home.

Despite being widely panned, the province is sticking to the plan it unveiled in September, with 40 cannabis retail stores to open next summer, followed by 80 in 2019, and 150 by 2020. The shops will be controlled by the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation—a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. (Doesn't OCRC have a great ring to it?)

The bill stipulates that recreational pot users will only be allowed to consume weed in private residences, defined by the government as "private self-contained living quarters in any multi-unit building or facility." Rec users are NOT allowed to consume pot in any public places, workplaces, inside a vehicle, or on a boat.

It's not a whole lot better for medical users, who will be prohibited from consuming weed in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public spaces, including "schools, child care centres, and the reserved seating areas of sporting arenas." But basically, any place that is accessible by the public and has a roof is off limits. Medical users will have some exemptions within designated rooms at long-term care homes; retirement homes; psychiatric facilities; facilities for veterans; and hotels/motels. The rooms must meet specific criteria, including proper ventilation and signage.

According to the province, a medical patient who wants to use such a room to consume weed needs to be able to do it themselves. "An employee who does not desire to enter the room shall not be required to do so."

The government backgrounder says this approach "aims to protect the health and well-being of everyone in Ontario, especially children, youth and other vulnerable populations."

It is not clear how forcing adults to consume in their homes, presumably where their children live, will protect youth. It is also unclear how "vulnerable populations" such as the homeless will be able to legally consume weed under this strict regime or what will happen to patients who are too sick to medicate without help. The new rules also come at a time when cities like Toronto are opening safe public opioid consumption sites; some people addicted to opioids use cannabis to reduce their opioid intake.

Breaking these rules will result in a fine of up to $1,000 for the first conviction and up to $5,000 on a subsequent conviction.

Speaking of which, Ontario revealed today that its plan for wiping out the province's 80 or so weed dispensaries is imposing escalating fines and up to two years of jail time for individuals, corporations, and landlords found guilty of breaking the law. Upon first conviction, a dispensary landlord could be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for two years; subsequent convictions could result in fines of up to $100,000 a day. For corporations, a first conviction would yield a fine of at least $25,000, capping at $1 million; subsequent convictions will yield minimum fines of $25,000 a day with maximum fines of $500,000 a day.

As for driving high, the legislation says there will be zero tolerance for young and novice drivers to have any drugs in their system. Those who violate the law will be fined between $60 and $500, and potentially have their license suspended, cancelled or changed.

Last month, VICE reported on a leaked document from Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services that was provided to law enforcement officials.

It contained statements like, "the illegal market will not disappear once cannabis is legalized" and "banning cannabis consumption in public could increase the risk of users turning to other mediums (e.g. edibles) which could lead to stronger impairment/effects." It also stated there could be difficulties in enforcing many of the new laws.

The federal government has earmarked $274 million for policing and border enforcement as it relates to legalization.

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