Cannabis Legalization


In April 2017, the federal government introduced legislation to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis in Canada by July 2018. The Cannabis Act creates rules for producing, possessing and selling cannabis across Canada. As part of that legislation, provinces have the authority to regulate the use, distribution, and sale of recreational cannabis. 

In December 2017, Ontario passed legislation to regulate the lawful use, sale, and distribution of recreational cannabis to address the federal legalization of July 2018. Post-provincial election in May, the provincial government introduced new amended legislation (Bill 36) on September 27, 2018, to address the federal legalization on October 17, 2018.

Legalization on October 17, 2018, includes:

  • personal recreational and medical use in public and private places
  • personal growing (for recreational use)
  • legal online sales (for recreational use)

Ontario Rules

Ontario regulates the use, sale, and distribution of recreational cannabis. In general, anywhere that tobacco use is permitted, so will cannabis use (vape or smoke). Prohibition of recreational or medical cannabis use in public spaces aligns with Smoke Free Ontario Act.  

Sale (for recreational use only)

  • Legal sale is restricted to online sales at this time and operated by the Ontario Cannabis Store.
    • Users must by 19+ years of age to access the online store and receive deliveries of cannabis.
    • Up to 30g (about one ounce) of dried cannabis can be purchased at one time for personal use.
  • The Province has also introduced legislation for a tightly regulated private retail model for cannabis that will launch by April 1, 2019.
    • The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the provincial regulator authorized to grant store licenses, and to inspect, investigate and enforce rules for registered operators and stores.
    • Niagara Regional Police Service will enforce illegal storefronts.
    • The Ontario Cannabis Store would be the exclusive wholesaler to these stores.
    • Private stores would be introduced with strict controls to safeguard children and youth and combat the illegal market.
      • The Province is still working through the details on these retail outlets.
      • Cannabis stores will need to observe a minimum distance from schools in place of local planning controls. Beyond this licensing control, it is uncertain how the license process will address other local municipal sensitivities.
      • Municipalities can opt in or out of cannabis sales in their community.
        • Can opt out by January 22, 2019.
        • If municipalities opt out at this time, they can opt in at a later, yet to be set date.
        • If municipalities opt in, they cannot opt out at a later date.

Local jurisdiction

At this time, there are unknowns as it relates to the implementation of Ontario's laws. While legalization is effective October 17, 2018, Ontario continues to develop the implementation as it relates to local municipalities. Municipalities continue to work with the Province to better understand the retail and enforcement aspects and our local jurisdiction.

Here's what we know now:

Use of cannabis in public spaces (recreational and medical use)

  • Regulated by the Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA) and any other local by-laws.
  • In Niagara, Regional By-law 112-2013 is in place restricting tobacco use further in outdoor spaces.
  • Niagara Region Public Health enforces the SFOA and Regional By-law 112-2013.
  • Similar to tobacco, an odour will be prevalent from smoking and vaping cannabis. While this may be a nuisance, the SFOA only addresses places where cannabis can be used in terms of second-hand smoke and there are no rules regarding the odour.

Concerns or complaints should be directed to Niagara Regional Public Health’s Tobacco Hotline at 905-688-8248 or 1-888-505-6074 ext. 7393 or online.

Growing of cannabis for recreational use

  • Up to four plants per residence (not person) is permitted.
  • These can be grown indoors or outdoors.

Concerns or complaints should be directed to Niagara Regional Police Service - For Niagara Falls, call 905-688-4111.

Next steps for Niagara Falls to address the changing provincial legislation and federal legalization:

  • Provide Council with two recommendation reports:
    • One report to outline options for Niagara Falls, including:
      • potential future revisions to the City Zoning By-law (e.g. new zoning categories, specific zoning provisions including setbacks and distance separation criteria, minimum parcel size, lot coverage, etc.)
      • property standards and clean yard considerations
      • business licensing for grower and retail operations
    • One report with recommendations on opting in or out of retail operations for April 2019.
  • There continue to be many items that are not yet confirmed by the Province that will affect a municipality's ability to be proactive and, as such, staff remain vigilant in keeping up to date with new information released by the Province.

The Cannabis Act

Here's What You Need to Know 

The Cannabis Act is designed to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and to keep profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.

  • To buy, possess or use cannabis, you must be of legal age (18 or 19 or older depending on your province or territory).
  • The Cannabis Act includes strict penalties for selling or providing cannabis to youth under the legal age.
  • Legal cannabis has an excise stamp appearing in different colours for each province and territory on product labels.
  • If you use cannabis, learn how to use it responsibly. Know the health effects. Like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis has risks, especially for youth and young adults.
  • Don't drive high or work impaired. Cannabis can impair your ability to operate vehicles or equipment safely. Driving while impaired by cannabis or any other drug is a serious criminal offence.
  • If you possess cannabis, store it away from children, youth and pets.
  • It's illegal to take cannabis across the Canadian border, whether you're leaving or coming to Canada. This applies to all countries, whether cannabis is legal there or not.
  • Under the Cannabis Act, access to cannabis for medical purposes will continue to be provided to those who are authorized by their healthcare practitioner.

To learn more about the Cannabis Act, in effect as of October 17, 2018, and the health effects of cannabis, visit: or call 1 800 O-Canada.