The smoke is beginning to clear around the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana.
A prohibition has been in place for almost a century, but the legalization of weed is scheduled to come into effect across Canada on Oct. 17.
It’s being left to the provinces and territories, however, to determine how exactly to roll out the new legislation.
With a change in provincial government following the recent election of Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives, many are waiting to see if the tune changes at Queen’s Park.
In the meantime, some cities are taking unique approaches to the new laws.
In Alberta, Calgary city councillors recently approved designated outdoor pot-smoking areas and weed gardens (similar to beer gardens) at festivals.
In Simcoe County, however, many municipalities aren’t tackling the nuts and bolts of the issue until councils resume following the summer break.
There’s also a municipal election on Oct. 22, just a few days after the marijuana’s legalization.
In the City of Barrie, staff is looking at discussing the matter in the fall.
“The City of Barrie is currently reviewing all of its smoking regulations, which we anticipate may also address the use of recreational marijuana,” said senior communications advisor Scott LaMantia. “We anticipate a report coming forward in the fall for council’s consideration.”
In the City of Orillia, officials aren’t looking at implementing any bylaw restrictions that would be over and above the provincial or federal legislation, said communications manager Jennifer Ruff.
In Oro-Medonte Township, communications and public relations officer Jenny Legget said municipal staff will review its bylaws. She said the township will also consult with other municipalities to ensure there is a level of consistency around the new laws; she said updates will be provided to council in the fall.
In the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, community relations officer Caleigh Clubine said the first senior staff meeting to formally work out a plan is set for mid-July. It is expected that plan will be approved by town council at one of their two September meetings.
In the Town of Collingwood, communications officer Jennett Mays said staff is working on a report for council, which will provide information and details about the upcoming changes.
WHAT’S IN THE ACT?
Under Ontario’s Cannabis Act, recreational marijuana use is restricted to private dwellings.
People will only be allowed to use recreational marijuana in a private residence, including outdoor spaces at a home, such as a porch or a backyard.
Smoking in a multi-unit building such as an apartment or condo, however, will depend on building rules and lease agreements.
The province has said up to four marijuana plants can be grown per residence, not per person.
People will be permitted to possess no more than 30 grams of dried marijuana in public.
Using marijuana in public spaces, in the workplace or in motorized vehicles will not be allowed. Smoking weed in public will result in a $1,000 fine for a first offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences.
BARRIE TO GET CANNABIS STORE
More than a dozen cities have been approved to have an Ontario Cannabis Store in their community, including Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor.
The rules put in place for pot will be similar to those governing alcohol and tobacco. For example, a person must be at least 19 years old to purchase, possess and grow recreational marijuana.
Come October, people 19 and over will be able to buy weed in person or online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. Online orders will be delivered “safely and securely,” according to the province.
Adults will be able to purchase up to 30 grams of dried recreational marijuana for personal use at one time.
The Ontario Cannabis Store, which is based on the LCBO model and will follow strict federal rules, will be the only location where recreational cannabis can be sold legally.
Medicinal cannabis use, however, which is federally regulated, will be subject to different laws.
If a health-care professional has already authorized a person to use medicinal marijuana, access will not change once the new recreational laws take effect.
The only way to purchase medicinal marijuana is through a federally-licensed producer online, by written order, or over the phone and delivered by secure mail.
NEW NORMAL FOR POLICE
With sweeping changes to the laws surrounding marijuana also comes stumbling blocks and has already led to the date being pushed back from July 1 as originally planned.
“As with any new legislation, there is always an educational component,” said Barrie police Const. Sarah Bamford. “Our service will continue working with community partners to educate people on the specifics of the legislation. It is of utmost importance to dispel any misinformation surrounding the legislation to ensure the safety and well-being of our community.”
Bamford said educating people is “vital” and will help adults make a “responsible choice.”
Barrie police is also working closely with the province, Bamford added, since the city will be home to a government-operated cannabis store.
Bamford said there will also be changes in the training officers receive in light of the impending legalization. Training will be adjusted as specific requirements become known.
One of the main concerns is centred on people who are high and driving.
If police find a driver to be impaired by cannabis, they will face an immediate licence suspension, fines and possible vehicle impoundment, as well as a criminal record and possible jail time if convicted.
According to the province, police officers will be authorized to use “oral fluid screening devices” at the side of the road once such devices are federally approved.
There will also be a zero-tolerance approach to young, novice and commercial drivers when it comes to marijuana, where no cannabis can be in your system (as detected by a federally-approved screening device).
That means it you are 21 or under, have a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, your vehicle requires an A-F licence or commercial vehicle operator’s registration, or you are driving a road-building machine.
“Drug-impaired driving is always an issue in Ontario,” Bamford said. “The good news is this is not a new issue for the Barrie Police Service. We are already dealing with it and already have officers trained as drug recognition experts and trained in standardized field sobriety tests.”
The Barrie police department anticipates an increase in the need for drug-recognition officers, she added.
“Efforts are already ongoing to increase our capacity in this area and look at options to make training more readily available and to reduce costs,” Bamford said.
Similarly, the OPP is preparing for the changing landscape.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Peter Leon said the OPP will embark on a social-media campaign to educate the public on the new rules.
“Themes will include aspects attributed to drugs and driving, youth and general information for potential users,” he said. “As this date approaches operationally, we will continue to prepare our members" in terms of training, education and awareness issues.
“Details cannot be provided at this time due to the operational nature,” he added.
LETTER OF THE LAW
In the meantime, however, local and provincial police are following the letter of the law.
“Until the law changes, the current laws remain enforceable,” Leon said. “Nothing has changed with respect to that.”
Barrie police remains committed to stemming the tide of illicit drugs in the community, Bamford said, adding people who use recreational marijuana must still follow the new laws once they are in place.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) still prohibits people to be in possession of marijuana and/or distribute the plant without authorization from Health Canada, Bamford said.