Canada: Ontario Passes Cannabis Act For 2018
While the Progressive Conservatives opposed it Liberals and New Democrats voted in favor of the legislation. MPPs passed the Cannabis Act 63 to 27, with support from the Liberals and the NDP, while the PC party voted no. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2018.
Trillium, a genus of perennial flowering plants native to temperate regions of North America and Ontario’s official flower along with marijuana could now be considered the province’s official weed with the passage of the Cannabis Act.
According to the Star, Government-controlled outlets and website will be the only place cannabis can be bought legally in Ontario when Ottawa legalizes sales on July 1, 2018. There will be 40 weed stores to start off and will be increased to 150 stores by 2020. Illegal pot dispensaries will be forced to close. The bill gives municipalities the power to close pot shops as soon as their owners are charged, even if they have not been convicted.
Jodie Emery, marijuana advocate and co-owner of Cannabis Culture, said the government should have allowed the storefronts to continue. “Do not criminalize the existing industry. This is deeply disappointing,” said Emery, warning a government monopoly will not end the black market. Existing dispensaries are under threat of cash fines of up to $1 million and jail terms as long as two years less a day.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the legislation won’t put much of a dent in the illegal, underground market.
“Instead of trying to drive existing dispensaries out of business, the government should allow them to apply to become legal and heavily regulated retailers of cannabis.”
The federal government pledge to give provinces and territories 75 percent of what Sousa said is an estimated $450 million in annual pot tax revenue nationwide, Ontario will work on a share of its roughly 40 per cent portion with municipalities for enforcement.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told reporters that “We have to be mindful what costs are being borne,” “Not all municipalities are being treated the same,” Sousa added, noting some jurisdictions have their own police forces while others rely on the OPP.
Sousa also said there is already a large demand for illicit cannabis, and he expects the legal market will grow "substantively" after the first few years. But the primary focus right now is not on generating revenue, but on recovering costs for the required upfront investments to set up distribution networks and public health and safety measures. Startup costs for implementing the regulated regime will be shared by all levels of government for public health and safety, is projected that the federal government will spend at least $700 million a year to try to get the legal program off to a strong start.
"We want to take the appropriate measures now to combat the illicit market, get it out of the system, then go forward to see how we can deal with revenue," he said.
“When it comes to retail distribution, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) has the expertise, the experience and the insight, to ensure careful control of cannabis, to help us discourage illicit market activity and see that illegal dispensaries are shut down,” said Sousa.
LCBO president and CEO George Soleas said “We will draw upon our decades of experience and work in partnership with the government to deliver on its objectives,” stressing the Crown corporation supports “moderate consumption.”
The first 14 municipalities that will be home to the shops are in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, London, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Vaughan, Hamilton, Barrie, Kingston, and Kitchener.
Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase or possess marijuana and pot consumption and will be limited to private homes. There will be no self-service at the shops and staff working at the dispensaries will be specially trained members of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union.
Smoking weed will continue to be illegal in any public space, including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles. Ontarians of age will, however, be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use. The expectation is that legal marijuana will be priced at about $10 a gram with all taxes included.
Those who violate the law could be fined up to $200, or a court could refer them instead to an educational or prevention program, said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.
"I want to be very clear there will be no criminal record aside from a provincial offence, but most importantly, our purpose is not to punish our youth but to educate our youth," he explained.
Education and awareness
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