With recreational use and possession of cannabis now legal in Canada, municipal staff provided council with an update on the legislation and the road ahead during council's November 5 meeting.
Acting CAO Rob Armstrong provided a report to council for information purposes.
“The Cannabis Act, as Bill C-45 is better known, permits an individual to buy limited amounts of cannabis in a variety of forms, possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public, grow up to four plants for personal consumption, share cannabis with other adults, and make legal cannabis-containing products at home. The legislation took effect on October 17, 2018,” noted Armstrong in his report. “Provincial governments have the responsibility for deciding how and where cannabis can be distributed and sold, where it can be used, and setting minimum ages and possession limits. Earlier in 2018, the previous Ontario government passed a bill that limited cannabis sales to a government-owned retailer similar to the LCBO, to be known as the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). The age limit for the consumption and possession of cannabis was set at 19 years of age, and consumption was to be limited to homes and other private places. Following the provincial election, new legislation was passed in the form of Bill 36, which received Royal Assent on October 17, 2018. That bill is now in force in the Province of Ontario.”
In his report, Armstrong made note of the changes that result from the implementation of the legislation:
- Smoking and vaping cannabis is permitted in many public places, including sidewalks, parks and designated rooms in hotels.
- Smoking and vaping is permitted in RVs and boats where the vehicle is securely parked or anchored and has sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities.
- Use of cannabis is prohibited in common areas of shared accommodation, and in enclosed public and work places.
- Smoking and vaping is not permitted at schools, playgrounds, sports facilities, long-term care homes, and a number of other areas where vulnerable populations reside or attend.
- Cannabis consumption is not permitted at bars and restaurants, including patio areas.
While the permissions and restrictions in the legislation generally follow regulations in the Smoke Free Ontario Act, and municipalities have the authority to set stricter rules regarding use of cannabis at municipally-owned spaces such as parks, harbours, and sidewalks.
Another factor to be considered by council in the months to come is retail sales.
“Bill 36 also changed the regulations with regard to cannabis sales. The sale and purchase of cannabis will no longer be limited to the Ontario Cannabis Store, with private ownership of retail stores now being permitted. The Ontario Cannabis Store will retain a monopoly on online sales, and private retail stores must purchase their product through OCS. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has been appointed as the regulator of private cannabis retail stores,” the report to council noted. “The AGCO is not currently taking applications for licences for private retail stores, but is expected to after January 22, 2019. The process for obtaining a retail licence is currently unclear, but AGCO have announced that there will be a 15-day public input period during the application process, and that comments from lower- and upper-tier municipalities will be considered.”
Under the legislation, municipalities have the authority to pass a resolution by January 22, 2019 to prohibit cannabis retail stores from being located in their municipalities.
“This 'opt-out' is a one-time only opportunity. Municipalities who opt out at this stage may opt in at a later date, but those who do not pass a resolution by January 22, 2019 will not be able to do so in the future,” Armstrong noted in his report. “Bill 36 also imposes restrictions on municipalities with regard to business licencing and planning by-laws. Municipalities are not permitted to require a business licencing process for cannabis retail stores, and are not permitted to include restrictions specific to cannabis retail stores in their Official Plan or zoning by-laws. With regard to the Official Plan and zoning by-law, cannabis retail stores would be permitted in any area currently zoned as commercial retail.”
Armstrong told council that the most pressing issue for council is whether to pass a resolution to prohibit cannabis retail stores from opening in Meaford, and he recommended that the new council make that decision in January.
Armstrong recommended to council that a public consultation exercise should be undertaken in order to seek residents' input prior to a council decision on whether to allow cannabis retail outlets in the municipality.
“Over the course of November and December, staff will produce and circulate information regarding cannabis retail stores to local residents and businesses, requesting their feedback on whether the Municipality should permit retail stores,” Armstrong told council.