Legalization of Cannabis in Ontario October 17, 2018

The federal Cannabis Act creates a legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. The Act aims to accomplish 3 goals:

  • keep cannabis out of the hands of youth
  • keep profits out of the hands of criminals
  • protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis

The Act comes into force on October 17, 2018, subject to provincial or territorial restrictions.  Ontario’s policies and laws pursuant to the Cannabis Act define how, where and who can buy and possess cannabis in the province.  The minimum age to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis will be 19.  View provincial directives re where to buy, where to use it, driving and use, growing marijuana, rules for the workplace.

Medical use of marijuana will continue to be subject to different rules than recreational use.  View Ontario guidelines for medical marijuana use here. For scientific and medical information to help you in discussions with your patients about use of medical marijuana, see the Federal guidelines. 

Ontario Legislative Framework 

 The legislative framework in Ontario is currently built upon the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Status Law Amendment Act which was passed in December 2017.  Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018  was introduced to the Ontario legislature on September 27, 2018 to make certain amendments to the provincial statute and to introduce rules about retail acquisition of cannabis which, if passed, will come into effect in Spring 2019.  Currently legal purchase will only be available through the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines

Cannabis use is common, especially among adolescents and young adults. There are well-documented risks from cannabis use to both immediate and long-term health. The main risks include cognitive, psychomotor and memory impairments; hallucinations and impaired perception; impaired driving and injuries (including fatalities); mental health problems (including psychosis); dependence; pulmonary/bronchial  problems; and reproductive problems.  Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG) were developed to provide science-based recommendations to enable people to reduce their health risks associated with cannabis use, similar to the intent of health-oriented guidelines for low-risk drinking, nutrition or sexual behavior. These Guidelines include 10 recommendations for people who use cannabis.

Implications for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists should be aware of key policies about use of cannabis in Ontario to be informed for interactions with clients and families who may have questions, who may be users of medical marijuana or who may be at risk of substance abuse related issues.