Marijuana legalization in Canada is taking place this fall, on October the 17th. Individuals in Ontario who are 19 or older will have a legal right to smoke cannabis where smoking tobacco is permitted and possess a maximum 30 grams of legal marijuana.
However, while on the road to legalization, many dispensaries popped up looking to get in on the market early. As a result, there emerged a lot of controversy on this grey market of marijuana dispensaries operating illegally.
As a result Toronto police conducted police raids on marijuana dispensaries frequently between 2016 and 2018. Despite all that, dispensary owners continued to operate after being released. Now that recreational marijuana is becoming legal, however, what does that mean for consumers and marijuana dispensaries?
If you fail to comply with the new marijuana laws and you buy marijuana from some other place, you can face serious criminal charges. Consult a criminal marijuana lawyer to fight your charges and to see what are your chances and what penalties you may expect.
What will happen to Toronto dispensaries in the post-legalization era?
The latest legislation updated and passed by the Ford government, allows for private retailers to sell recreational cannabis in Canada. However, only a handful of locations will be running in Canada when legalization officially passes.
While there will be locations in provinces like Alberta, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, for instance, there will be no legal pot shop running in Ontario until April 1, 2019. In the meantime, people in Ontario looking to purchase recreational marijuana will only be able to do so online through the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store. The corporation will operate online sales, and provide wholesale distribution for provincial retail stores and more than 30 licensed marijuana producers with whom it has signed supply agreements. All online deliveries will be processed by Canada Post.
Where do Illegal marijuana dispensaries fit in all of this? According to the Ontario provincial government, dispensary owners must start from the beginning and apply for a license to operate and sell cannabis legally in Ontario. To do this, they must shut down by October 17 first and then go through the application process.
How many illegal dispensaries will actually shut down and re-open remains unknown. Dispensary owners may be hesitant to take the ultimatum. Giving up their daily earnings, property leases, and customer base with no guarantee of license at the end of it all is a big concern.
Also, background checks, application reviews, and store locations must be reviewed and approved, which could take longer than the six months until April 1st arrives. So by the time applications get approved, the market will have changed drastically. Officials will not put a limit on the number of marijuana retail shops in Ontario, but licensed producers could have one retail location at a production facility. The situation is leaving dispensary owners with mixed reactions about legalization.
With recreational marijuana becoming legal, it is expected that there will be a rise in impaired driving offences. In addition, consumers are anticipating the day cannabis edibles become legal, which could put small children at risk with cases of accidental consumption.
However, one big incentive they have to shut down: they face heavy penalties if they continue to operate without the proper licenses and permits. Once the new marijuana law is put into force, owners of Ontario pot stores will be working illegally.
If you are a dispensary owner, illegal distribution or sale of marijuana can cost you up to 14 years in prison and heavy fines, as well.
If you need professional legal advice or have questions on fighting marijuana charges, call our Toronto criminal defence lawyer for a free consultation. We also have offices in Oakville and London and our team of lawyers will do the best to defend you.