Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statue Law Amendment Act, 2017, or The Cannabis Act, is Ontario’s legislation which will enable the province to comply with the federal government’s Bill C-45. Bill 174 passed on December 12, 2017.

The Act sets out a number of details around Ontario’s approach to cannabis legalization. It set the minimum age for consumption at 19 years of age (one year older than the minimum federally determined requirement), establishes the retail mechanism through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation under the purview of the LCBO, establishes principles of harm reduction especially concerning youth, and includes amendments to the Education act and the Liquor License Act.

The Cannabis Act is divided into four schedules.

Schedule 1, the Cannabis Act, outlines the rules for “the sale, distribution, purchase, possession, cultivation, propagation and harvesting of cannabis,” with the explicit intent to eliminate the illicit market, and to provide for approved youth education or prevention programs. Key elements laid out under the act are defining the age or majority, who will manage the sales of cannabis, the regulations the Lieutenant Governor in Council can make and prioritizing harm reduction with a focus on youth.

Schedule 2, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporations Act  outlines the rules for the sale of cannabis and includes a section on band council and on-reserve. Its purpose is to establish the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation and outline its objectives and function.  The Corporation will have exclusive rights to sell cannabis in Ontario, with exceptions.

Schedule 3, the new Smoke Free Ontario Act repeals the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015 and replaces them with the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017. The new Act applies to tobacco products, vapour products and medical cannabis, and to other products and substances that may be prescribed in the regulations. This Act sets the minimum age for tobacco, vapour, and prescribed product use at 19, restrict the display and promotion of tobacco products, prohibit use in certain places and in motor vehicles, and limit advertising and certain types of marketing of products including to young people or sales through vending machines.

Schedule 4, Amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, makes amendments to the Highway Traffic Act regarding driving with alcohol or drugs in the body, and sets the consequences for contravention of those rules.

Impact on First Nations

The entire Act will impact First Nations, but  two sections that specifically regulate how First Nations can regulate cannabis in their communities, though they leave room for interpretation on how the Act will be implemented.

Schedule 1, Section 26 provides for an agreement with council of a band under the Indian Act for the purposes to “enter into arrangements and agreements with a council of the band with respect to the sale, distribution, purchase, possession, consumption, cultivation, propagation or harvesting of cannabis on a reserve.”

Schedule 2, Sections 28 and 29 provides that arrangements can be made with a band council in terms of selling or banning cannabis on-reserve, however the parameters around that are not defined. Anyone wishing to sell cannabis within Ontario must go through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation and become an authorized Ontario Cannabis retailer, which is accountable to the LCBO.

For the Ontario Regional Chief’s statement on Bill 174, click here.