Weed is legal! What you should know

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / SoruEpotok

With the legalization of recreational cannabis now a reality across the country, Canadians should ensure they’re familiar with the ins and outs before deciding to light up a joint.

In Ontario, you have to be 19 years of age or older to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis.

People can possess a maximum of 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, which is roughly the weight of four to five loonies. Individuals will also be able to grow up to four plants per residence.

Cannabis use will be permitted in locations where smoking tobacco is permitted under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, such as private homes and many outdoor public spaces like sidewalks.

Those loosened restrictions depend on the Ontario PC government’s Cannabis Act amendments passing a final vote and then receiving royal assent — that’s expected to take place Wednesday afternoon. Until then, the restrictions that were put in place under the previous Liberal government are in effect, which means you can only smoke cannabis in a private residence in Ontario.

Even after the amended restrictions are in place, smoking or vaping cannabis will also be prohibited in many other areas such as:

  • Indoor common areas in condos, apartment buildings and university/college residences
  • Enclosed public places and enclosed workplaces
  • Non-designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
  • Schools and places where children gather, and all public areas within 20 metres of these grounds
  • Hospitals, hospices, care homes and other facilities
  • Publicly owned spaces sports fields (not including golf courses), nearby spectator areas and public areas within 20m of these areas.
  • Vehicles and boats that are being driven or is at risk of being put into motion.
  • In restaurants and on bar patios and public areas within nine metres of a patio
  • On outdoor grounds of specified Ontario government office buildings
  • In reserved seating areas at outdoor sports and entertainment locations

Driving while under the influence of cannabis, similar to alcohol, is also prohibited. If a police officer finds that a driver is impaired by cannabis, they could face serious penalties that include fines, licence suspension, and possible jail time.

Police officers are authorized to use oral fluid screening devices during roadside stops to test if a driver has consumed cannabis. A federally approved device that detects cannabis is also being developed and will be implemented in the future to help police enforce the law.

The only way to legally buy cannabis as of Wednesday is to purchase it online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and have it delivered.  The government-run website will allow buyers to purchase up to 30 grams of dried recreational cannabis at one time for personal use. Anyone accepting a cannabis delivery will have to provide proof of their age to accept the package, and packages will not be left unattended at the door.

A private retail licensing model will be implemented on April 1 when the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will become the provincial regulator, which will be authorized to grant store licenses.

The rules for medical cannabis are different than the rules for recreational cannabis. If a health care professional has already authorized you to use cannabis for medical reasons, your access will not change when recreational cannabis is legal.  The production and sale of medical cannabis are regulated exclusively by the federal government.