Ontario residents will be able to smoke recreational cannabis wherever the smoking of tobacco is permitted, the Progressive Conservative government said Wednesday, loosening rules established by the previous Liberal regime.
The details were announced by Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli a day before new legislation on pot rules was set to be tabled.
Under previous consumption rules, those over 19 would have only been able to smoke cannabis in a private Ontario residence when pot becomes legal Oct. 17. The proposed legislation eases the regulations to allow marijuana to be smoked in the same places as cigarettes.
“We’re aligning with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act,” Mulroney said, referencing the provincial set of rules on tobacco use. “If you’re able to smoke tobacco in your home then you’ll be able to use cannabis as well.”
Smoking pot in vehicles or boats that are being operated will be prohibited. Breaking the rules would see people subjected to fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 upon conviction.
Robert Schwartz, a University of Toronto professor specializing in cannabis distribution and public health, said the government’s move to align consumption rules around the laws that already apply to tobacco consumption make sense.
“It’s going to create challenges for people who live in multi-unit dwellings, but it’s already a challenge,” he said. “There are already a lot of people in these dwellings who are complaining about second-hand smoke from cannabis and therefore there are some condominiums that are going smoke-free completely which is a good thing.”
Schwartz, who is also the executive director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, said the government needs to stress to people that smoking cannabis is not healthy.
“It’s really important to communicate to people that they should not be smoking,” he said. “They should be using it in another ways. Preferably, you’d have a distinction between smoking and vaping, not that vaping is benign but it’s undoubtedly better than smoking.”