The federal government has introduced legislation to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018, but left it up to the provinces and territories to oversee distribution and sales.

Ontario is the first province out of the gate with a detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational cannabis when Ottawa legalizes it next summer.

Cannabis will be sold in Ontario through a chain of government-run stores, all existing medical cannabis dispensaries will be closed, and consumption will be limited to private homes, Ontario’s Liberal government said Friday in announcing the province’s framework governing recreational cannabis.

  • The proposed minimum age to use, purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario will be 19. The use of recreational cannabis will be prohibited in public places and workplaces.
  • Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not and will not be legal retailers. The province will pursue a coordinated and proactive enforcement strategy, working with municipalities, local police services, the OPP and the federal government to help shut down these illegal operations.
  • Ontario will prohibit individuals under the age of 19 from possessing or consuming recreational cannabis, which will allow police to confiscate small amounts of cannabis from young people. The province’s approach to protecting youth will focus on prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.

The government hopes to have 40 cannabis outlets by July 2018, 80 by July 2019 and 150 up and running by 2020. Online distribution will be available across the province from July 2018 onward.

The stand-alone outlets will be run by the LCBO, Ontario’s government-run liquor monopoly, which operates a chain of 651 liquor stores across the province. Legislation will be introduced later this fall.

Three other provinces — Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — are also leaning toward a government-run retail monopoly, though no formal decision has been made yet.

Ottawa has committed to legalizing the adult-use industry by July 1, 2018.