Photo via Cannabis Culture
[UPDATE AUG. 20, 2019]: Ontario has come a long way since we published this story. As of April 1, 2019, users and patients no longer have to rely on buying weed online via the Ontario Cannabis Store. Now, licensed dispensaries are open in the province, making access to legal weed easier than ever for Ontarians.
Additionally, the places in which people can smoke and vape in public have been officially defined. According to the Government of Ontario's website, it's well within the law to toke up in private residences, as long as they're not also workplaces. Keep in mind that rules may differ based on leases and renting agreements — not all landlords are 420-friendly.
People can puff in outdoor public spaces, such as parks and sidewalks. They can also spark up in designated smoking guest rooms in hotels, motels, and inns. Residential vehicles (such as RVs) and boats that have permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored are also safe smoking zones. People can consume cannabis at scientific research and testing facilities, as long as the consumption is to facilitate testing and/or research. And, finally, the public can smoketh le herb in controlled areas at specific long-term care and retirement homes, residential hospices, provincially-funded supportive housing, and designated psychiatric or veterans’ facilities. All of these spaces happen to be ones in which people can smoke tobacco, too.
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So, there you have it. Ontario is leading the way in terms of creating legal, concrete consumption zones. Hopefully other weed-friendly regions — like the 33 legal states in the US — take note from the Province of Opportunity.
[ORIGINAL POST]: When Canada legalizes recreational cannabis next month, Ontarians and their guests will gain a freedom almost unheard of in countries and states with legal marijuana — the right to smoke pot in public. On Wednesday, Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced that the government intends to update the Smoke Free Ontario Act to require that cannabis tokers and vapers follow the same rules as tobacco smokers.
Under a new bill, pot smokers will be permitted to light up anywhere tobacco use is allowed, but must also abide by the same restrictions imposed on cigarette smokers. Smoking in enclosed spaces, within nine meters of a public building, or within 20 meters of a children's play area will remain prohibited.
“In addition, the legislation would prohibit the consumption of cannabis in vehicles and boats that are being driven or under a person’s care or control, recognizing that in these circumstances cannabis poses risks similar to alcohol,” Mulroney stated, the Toronto Sun reports. Anyone caught violating these public smoking rules will be subject to serious fines, ranging from C$1,000 to $5,000.
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“I’m sure that there will be a lot of complaints about the neighbour next door, but we’re aligning with the Smoke Free Ontario Act,” Mulroney said, according to The Globe and Mail. Earlier this summer, city officials in Edmonton, Alberta also considered the idea of allowing public pot smoking, but if Ontario's new proposal passes, it will become the world’s largest territory to allow adults to spark up outside.
These new public smoking rules are certain to ease the minds of Ontarians living in rental properties. The province's laws allow landlords to prohibit cannabis smoking on their properties, in order to protect the rights of tenants who wish to remain smoke-free, and many tenants began to despair that they would have no legal place to smoke up.
A similar situation is occurring in the U.S., where public pot smoking remains prohibited in every state, preventing renters and tourists from having a place to smoke legally acquired cannabis products. With the simple act of permitting public pot smoking (within reason), Ontario may well avoid these issues altogether.
The new smoking rules are also good news for the province's cannabis industry. “There are major implications for licensed producers from a consumer marketing perspective,” Omar Khan, vice-president at cannabis consulting firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies, said to The Globe and Mail. “With the ability to now consume in public spaces, it’s a completely new ball game about how they will want to build brand awareness.”
Mulroney said that the province will begin selling weed online via the Ontario Cannabis Store on October 17th, the day that pot officially becomes legal in all of Canada. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has been granted the authority to license privately-operated cannabis stores, which are expected to open for business by April of next year.