Provincial Government Prepares for the Legalization of Recreational Cannabis

The provincial government of Ontario has introduced Bill 174 in preparation for the coming into force of the Cannabis Act (or Bill C-45). As previously reported, if it is approved by Parliament, Bill C-45 could become law with a target date of no later than July 2018, legalizing recreational cannabis across Canada.

Bill 174 was at its second reading on November 23, 2017, and enacts the Cannabis Act, 2017, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 and the Smoke-free Ontario Act, 2017.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 will restrict the places where cannabis may be consumed. Specifically, no person will be permitted smoke or hold lighted medical cannabis, or consume a prescribed product or substance, in:

  • an enclosed public place;
  • an enclosed workplace
  • a school;
  • a building or the grounds surrounding the building of a private school, or the grounds annexed to a private school;
  • any indoor common area in a condominium, apartment building or university or college residence, including, without being limited to, elevators, hallways, parking garages, party or entertainment rooms, laundry facilities, lobbies and exercise areas;
  • a child care centre;
  • a place where home child care is provided, whether or not children are present;
  • a place where an early years program or service is provided;
  • the reserved seating area of a sports arena or entertainment venue.


“Enclosed workplace” is defined in Bill 174 as the inside of any place, building or structure or vehicle or conveyance, or a part of any of them, that is covered by a roof, that employees work in or frequent during the course of their employment whether or not they are acting in the course of their employment at the time, and that is not primarily a private dwelling.

These restrictions are subject to certain exemptions, such as controlled use areas in long-term care homes, and designated hotel rooms.


The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 will place obligations on employers and proprietors with respect to the places where the prohibitions apply such as:


  • ensuring compliance with the prohibitions on consumption noted above;
  • providing notice regarding the prohibitions to consumption to each employee in the enclosed workplace or other place or area;
  • post any prescribed signs respecting these prohibitions throughout the enclosed workplace, place, or area, including washrooms;
  • ensure that no ashtrays or similar equipment remain in the enclosed workplace, place, or area, other than a vehicle in which the manufacturer has installed an ashtray;
  • ensure that a person who refuses to comply the restrictions on consumption does not remain in the enclosed workplace, place, or area.


Bill 174 prohibits reprisals against employees for acting in accordance with, or seeking enforcement of their rights under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017.


Bill 174 further provides that an inspector may, without a warrant or notice, and at any time, enter and inspect any of the places where prohibition on consumption apply, the establishments of the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers, and any place where the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that an activity regulated or prohibited under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 is taking place.


If the inspector finds that an employer is not complying with its obligations under the provisions of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, it may direct the employer or a person whom the inspector believes to be in charge of the enclosed workplace, place, or area to comply with the provision and may require the direction to be carried out forthwith, or within such period of time as the inspector determines.


The Bill in its current form essentially mirrors existing employer obligations regarding tobacco products and extends these obligations to cannabis products. Bird Richard will keep you apprised of the coming into force of this Bill.