Alcohol and marijuana laws in Canada and specifically Ontario

By: Dru Gary

Published on: October 10th, 2023

Every country has unique laws pertaining to controlled substances. Recently, Canada has undergone legal changes regarding the purchasing and consumption of marijuana. Canada also has unique laws around the purchase and consumption of alcohol. 

A country’s relationship to substances plays a prominent role in the culture. Understanding laws surrounding their use is essential for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the substances, if individuals so choose, in a law-abiding way.  

Alcohol consumption is legal for those of legal drinking age in Canada, which is different based on the province or territory. The legal drinking age is 19 years old in most provinces, except for Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, where it is 18. Some provinces have restrictions on alcohol sales and consumption, such as limits on where and when alcohol can be sold, hours of operation for bars and restaurants, and regulations around public intoxication. 

Ontario has its own province-specific laws and regulations regarding alcohol and marijuana consumption. Alcohol can be consumed at licensed bars, restaurants, and other establishments authorized to sell alcohol. These establishments have specific hours of operation and are subject to regulations regarding responsible service of alcohol. 

The sale of alcohol is regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Retail sales are primarily conducted through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and authorized retail outlets. Online sales are also available through the LCBO website. 

Drinking and driving laws in Canada are quite strict. It is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Provinces have implemented smaller penalties for drivers with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, including license suspensions and vehicle impoundment. These laws are in place to keep people safe and prevent injury, or death from vehicles being operated by individuals under the influence.  

In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide. The Cannabis Act allows adults who are of legal age (18 or 19, depending on the province) to have and consume cannabis in limited quantities for personal use. 

Under the Cannabis Act, individuals can have up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent on their person in public. Each province has the authority to establish additional regulations, including possession limits, home cultivation restrictions, and the legal age for consumption.  

The sale and distribution of marijuana are regulated through licensed retailers. These establishments must adhere to strict guidelines regarding age verification, product quality, and labeling. Online sales are also permitted through government-operated websites or licensed private retailers. 

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is the government-operated online retailer for recreational marijuana in the province. Customers aged 19 and older can purchase a wide range of cannabis products through the OCS website. 

Impaired driving laws also extend to marijuana. It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis or any other impairing substance. Law enforcement agencies use various methods to detect drug-impaired driving, including standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition evaluations. 

As a newcomer in Canada, it is important to be aware of these laws and to abide by them. Canada has strict laws in place to protect its citizens from harm caused by substances like alcohol and marijuana. Respecting these laws allow individuals to enjoy substances in a safe and responsible way.   

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