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Ottawa, Aug 14 (Canadian-Media): Following the federal legalization of cannabis on October 17, Ontario will immediately introduce an online retail channel for cannabis, to be followed by a private retail model by April 1, 2019, media reports said.
Details about how the province will manage cannabis retail following the federal government's decision to legalize the drug effective October 17, 2018 were shared yesterday by Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney.
Combination of online and regulated private retail for child safety and to eliminate the illegal market would be prioritized.
The use of Official Ontario Cannabis Retailer Seal to identify licensed retailers and providers would facilitate consumers to purchas federally quality controlled products from a legitimate retailer.
Starting on October 17, consumers 19 and older will be able to purchase cannabis via an online retail platform provided by the Ontario Cannabis Store.
A verification system that will ensure safe at home delivery for cannabis products would be in place for the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) online channel to meet the federally imposed obligation to make provinces ready for retail sales for the start of legalization.
"We will be ready to put in place a safe, legal system for cannabis retail that will protect consumers," said Mulroney. "We will also be ready to undermine the illegal market and protect Ontario's roads. Most importantly of all, we will be ready to protect our kids."
"Throughout this process we have held fast to some non-negotiable principles: Public safety is paramount," said Fedeli. "We will make sure our youth are safe; our roads are safe and that we work with our municipalities to ensure our neighbourhoods are safe."
Ministers also announced to begin consultations -- with municipalities, Indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, businesses and consumer groups and representatives of the other provinces with private retail -- in advance to opening up a tightly regulated private retail model for cannabis that will be launched by April 1, 2019 .
"The Government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores," said Fedeli. "Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market."
Private retailers will have to follow a series of provincial rules, such as prohibiting the sale of cannabis to anyone under the age of 19.
Ontario will begin to consult on a number of rules all retailers will be mandated to follow including set hours of operation and staff training. Federal law lays out numerous other retail requirements, including restricted advertising, that products are not visible to children, and that all sales must be made over the counter.
The Ministers also announced a zero-tolerance policy, including severely escalating fines, for any retailer or dispensary who continues to operate in the illicit markets.
It is illegal to drive drug-impaired and it’s just as dangerous as driving drunk.
Police officers will be authorized to use oral fluid screening devices at roadside to enforce the law.
On October 17, 2018, Ontario will enact new measures.
New road safety laws include serious penalties that will increase consequences and costs for those who drive under the influence of cannabis and other drugs. Ontario will have zero-tolerance for impaired young, novice or commercial drivers.
Consumers will only be allowed to use recreational cannabis in a private residence, including the outdoor space of a home. Recreational cannabis use will not be allowed in any public spaces, workplaces or motorized vehicles.
The government will provide municipalities with a one-time window under which they can choose to opt-out of permitting physical cannabis retail stores within their boundaries. The provincial government will provide $40 million to municipalities over two years to help local governments keep their communities safe.
"In order to protect our communities — we have to work closely with our municipalities. In fact, they are our essential partners," concluded Fedeli. "We are committed to creating a safe retail model that eliminates the illegal cannabis market in Ontario. We are taking a balanced and responsible approach to building a system that works."
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are also moving ahead with a private model for retail storefronts to help eliminate the illegal market. Ontario will work with our partners to build on what they learn as we consult on our private model.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)