With cannabis now legal across Canada, there’s a few things people should note before blazing up.
In Ontario, only those aged 19 or older will be permitted to use and purchase pot, and possess up to 30 grams in public.
Cannabis now is available for purchase online at www.OCS.ca but retail stores won’t start popping up in Ontario until April.
“Current cannabis storefronts are and will remain illegal,” said Bryan Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General.
“Enforcement is the responsibility of the local police service.
“The Cannabis Act, 2017 prohibits any person from selling or distributing cannabis, other than the Ontario Cannabis Store [OCS],” he added.
Those who sell cannabis without a licence, or share it with those who are under age, can face up to $5,000 in fines or up to 14 years in prison.
“To me that’s not appropriate,” said local Rainy River Cannabis Collective owner Angela Olson, who disagrees with the 14-year penalty.
“Don’t get me wrong, don’t do it,” she stressed. “But I don’t think someone should lose 14 years of their life.”
Local OPP community safety officer Yenta Davidson said their main focus is public safety and protecting young people.
She told the Times the OPP has been preparing for the legalization of cannabis and are ready to enforce the new laws relating to it.
“The OPP is in the process of and will continue to provide adequate training to all the frontline members and supervisors in a timely manner,” Davidson noted.
“One of our main focuses is road safety,” she added. “Using cannabis and driving is illegal and dangerous.
“Cannabis slows your reaction time and increases your chances of being in a collision,” Davidson said. “If a police officer finds that you’re impaired by any drug including cannabis, you will face serious penalties.”
Some of the consequences of cannabis-impaired driving include an immediate licence suspension, mandatory remedial education, treatment and monitoring for repeat offences, financial penalties, and vehicle impoundment.
“Also, there will be a zero tolerance policy for young [21 and under], novice, and commercial drivers,” Davidson warned.
“You will not be allowed to have any cannabis in your system.”
As of Oct. 1, the OPP has trained 119 drug recognition evaluator officers and 800 standard field sobriety test officers to enforce the new cannabis-impaired driving laws.
“The most important thing for us is drug-impaired driving and making sure that you have a suitable driver if you decide that you’re going to participate in anything whether it’s alcohol or drug consumption,” Davidson stressed.
“Being safe is the most important thing.”
While it’s essential to be aware of the driving laws, it’s also important to understand where you can use cannabis.
The province last week passed legislation that will allow recreational and cannabis users to smoke or vape cannabis in private residences, outdoor public places like parks and sidewalks, designated guest rooms in hotels, residential vehicles or boats, and scientific research and testing facilities.
Controlled areas where cannabis can be used include long-term care homes, certain retirement homes, residential hospices, provincially-funded supportive housing, and designated psychiatric facilities or veterans facilities.
But those who partake in cannabis should be aware of municipal bylaws that may prohibit its use in certain areas.
Davidson said the OPP will continue to work with the provincial government and community partners to support public education campaigns related to the legalization and use of cannabis.
“Our officers will continue to work with community partners and utilize all opportunities provided to deliver safety programs,” she noted.
Moving forward, officers will work diligently to enforce the new cannabis laws.
“Our role as the OPP is to enforce and investigate criminal cannabis incidents focusing on the apprehension of those who produce, sell, and import cannabis outside of the parameters of the legislation,” Davidson remarked.
“The OPP will continue to work with other policing services to make sure that there is consistent and cohesive enforcement of the new laws,” she said.