Cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed or pot, is a product that comes from a plant with common strains that include Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.
There are two active chemicals in cannabis. One is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the mind-altering chemical that gives those who use cannabis a high. The other active chemical in cannabis is CBD (cannabidiol), which does not produce a high or intoxication. CBD is presently being studied and used for medical purposes.
Cannabis is used today for medical and/or non-medical purposes and can be consumed in a variety of ways, including:
- Inhaled through smoke or vapour
- Ingested through capsules, softgels, pills, tinctures, drinks and foods (edibles)
- Absorbed through the skin
Cannabis first became legal on October 17, 2018. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) outlines where cannabis, medical and recreational, along with tobacco smoking and vaping is prohibited in public places and work places.
New Cannabis Products: What Canadians Need to Know
On October 17, 2019, the federal government made it legal to purchase and consume edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals. What are these products?
- Edible cannabis products (also referred to as edibles) are items that you eat or drink which contain cannabis
- Cannabis extracts refer to products that contain higher concentrations of THC and CBD than is in the cannabis plant; and
- Cannabis topicals are oils, creams and lotions infused with cannabis and applied externally to the skin, hair, or nails
These cannabis products carry with them unique health and safety risks. It is important to be aware and informed of these risks before choosing to use edible cannabis, cannabis extracts or cannabis topicals.
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Cannabis Legalization Q & A
Where is cannabis sold?
People ages 19 and over are able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store or through licensed provincial retail stores. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the provincial regulator who authorizes store licenses. For more information on private retail stores, visit Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Where can residents smoke cannabis?
- Private residences – this does not include residences that are also workplaces (e.g. long-term care and/or retirement homes)
- Many outdoor public places (e.g. sidewalks, parks)
- Designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
- Residential vehicles and boats that meet certain criteria (e.g. have permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored)
- Approved scientific research and testing facilities (if cannabis use is for scientific research and testing purposes)
- Controlled areas (approved by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care) in:
- Long-term care homes
- Certain retirement homes
- Residential hospices
- Provincially-funded supportive housing
- Designated psychiatric facilities or veterans’ facilities
*Additional restrictions on smoking and vaping may exist in each municipality, lease agreements and the policies of employers and property owners. Visit your local municipality’s website for more information.
For additional information on proposed legislation and places of use for recreational cannabis, please visit ontario.ca/cannabis
Is there a bylaw around odour?
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 does not address odour issues. Each municipality will have different bylaws. It is best to check your local municipality for more information.
Who can I contact regarding complaints or bylaw enforcement?
The Cannabis Act, 2018 contains the legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada.
The Regional Municipality of York, including Public Health, or individual municipalities, will enforce non-criminal requirements such as complaints around public consumption, odour and retail locations, as well as the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 which regulates where tobacco, vapour products and cannabis cannot be used.
In combination with the regulations set out in the act, York Regional Police, working alongside municipal, regional, provincial and federal partners, will be enforcing violations of the federal act and the provincial regulations. For more information, visit the Cannabis and Policing webpage.
What rights do tenants and homeowners have regarding smoking and growing cannabis in a rental property?
For information on tenant and homeowner rights and responsibilities regarding the smoking and growing of cannabis, please contact the Landlord and Tenant Board.
What does the city or town manage versus the Region?
York Region Public Health, Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes Control Officers will enforce the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 which regulates the sale, supply, use, display and promotion of tobacco and vapour products including smoking and vaping of cannabis. All other matters relating to cannabis are under the jurisdiction of your local municipality or York Regional Police.
Places you cannot smoke or vape cannabis
- Indoor common areas in condominiums, apartment buildings and university/college residences
- Enclosed public places and enclosed work places
- Non-designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
Schools and places where children gather
- At school, on school grounds and all public areas within 20 metres of these grounds
- On children’s playgrounds and public areas within 20 metres of playgrounds
- In child care centres, or where an early years program is provided
- In places where home child care is provided – even if children aren’t present
Hospitals, hospices, care homes and other facilities
- Within nine metres from the entrance or exit of hospitals (public/private), psychiatric facilities, long-term care homes, independent health facilities
- On outdoor grounds of hospitals (public/private) and psychiatric facilities
Publicly owned spaces
- publicly-owned sports areas (not including golf courses), nearby spectator areas and public spaces within 20 metres of these areas
Vehicles and boats
- You cannot consume cannabis (smoking, vaping, eating) in a vehicle or boat that is being driven or is at risk of being put into motion.
Other outdoor areas
- In restaurants and on bar patios and public areas within nine metres of a patio
- On outdoor grounds of specific Ontario government office buildings
- In reserved seating areas at outdoor sports and entertainment locations
- Grounds of community recreational facilities and public areas within 20 metres of those grounds
- In sheltered outdoor areas with a roof and more than two walls which the public or employees frequent, or are invited to (e.g. a bus shelter)
For additional information on proposed legislation and places of use for recreational cannabis, please visit ontario.ca/cannabis.
Health Effects of Cannabis Use
Cannabis affects people differently depending on the level of THC in the products, the age of use, frequency of use, amount of use, and if used in conjunction with other drugs. Additionally, the effects of cannabis may differ depending on how it is consumed. For example, the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can be felt within minutes and can last up to six hours. With edibles, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel effects from eating or drinking cannabis. These effects can last up to 12 hours.
Short-term effects of cannabis use can include:
- Feeling “high” (euphoria)
- Impaired ability to drive safely
- Difficulty learning and remembering things
- Mood and emotional changes including anxiety or panic
Long-term effects of cannabis use can include:
- Breathing and lung problems if cannabis is inhaled, including chronic cough
- Addiction or dependency
- Mental health problems, including:
- Triggering psychotic episodes
- Increasing the risk of developing depression
- Increasing the risk of anxiety disorders
Evidence suggests that second-hand cannabis smoke has similar carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Also, it is possible that an individual exposed to high levels of second-hand cannabis smoke (i.e. in an enclosed, unventilated environment) could experience impairment, but this is unlikely under low smoking conditions and ventilated environments.
A smoke-free environment remains the safest and healthiest choice for everyone.
Cannabis and Mental Health
Using cannabis can increase the risk of experiencing psychosis and schizophrenia, especially if:
- Used every day or almost every day
- You are a teenager
- Someone in your family has, or has had, these conditions
For more information, visit Cannabis & Psychosis (The Schizophrenia Society of Canada).
Cannabis Use in Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation
There is no known safe amount of cannabis use in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Until further information about the potential harms is available, it is recommended that women stop using cannabis while they are pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Although more research is required on the effects of cannabis use on pregnancy and lactation, a growing body of evidence suggests there can be a negative impact on a child’s pre and post-natal development:
- Frequent cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and is part of a cluster of risk-factors correlated with other adverse birth outcomes.
- Prenatal and early exposure to cannabis can alter neurodevelopment leading to adverse effects on cognition and academic achievement.
- There are also effects on behavior in children and young adults, including attention deficits, increased hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increased likelihood of substance use.
- Cannabis used during lactation may result in similar developmental risks as cannabis use in pregnancy, along with the potential to cause infant drowsiness and poor suckling, resulting in potential breastfeeding challenges.
What can I do to as a parent to protect my children if I’m using cannabis?
- Avoid using cannabis if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
- Avoid exposing infants and children to cannabis smoke because they may inhale the smoke and damage their lungs
- All types of cannabis should be kept out of reach of children to avoid accidental poisoning. For example, edible cannabis in the form of baked goods or candy should be kept in child-proof containers.
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Talking to Children and Youth about Cannabis Use
Health risks generally increase when cannabis is used at an early age, as research shows the brain is not fully developed until around age 25.
Cannabis and Youth
Your child may be exposed to cannabis during his or her school years. According to the recent York Region - Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Report, 2017 (OSDUHS), 22% of York Region high school students and 25% of all Ontario high school students said that they have used cannabis in the last 12 months.
Even the occasional use of cannabis can have harmful effects. For instance, driving after using cannabis may double the risk of having a car accident (CAMH, 2018).
Youth who use cannabis early and often are at risk of long-term health and social problems. Here are a few examples:
- Increased risk of harm to the brain including problems with memory, concentration, thinking, learning, handling emotions, and decision-making
- Increased risk of mental health problems including psychosis or schizophrenia and, possibly, depression, anxiety and suicide, especially if there’s a personal or family history of mental illness
- Difficulties with relationships at home, school or work
- Physical health harms including lung and respiratory problems from smoking cannabis
- Addiction issues as cannabis can be addictive, especially for youth
What Parents/Guardians and Caregivers Need to Know
As a parent, guardian and/or caregiver, you can help prevent or delay your child’s use of cannabis. Start the conversation early, and talk often. Be in the know, know the facts. Find a comfortable setting:
- Keep an open mind and put yourself in your child/teen’s place
- Be clear about your goals
- Be calm, relaxed and positive
- Don’t lecture
- Be aware of body language
How should you talk to your student/child about cannabis?
- Stay connected. Having a strong relationship with your student/child will increase the likelihood of helping them make informed and safer decisions
- Talk about it. Try to have open and ongoing talks about cannabis
- Be positive. Don’t shame, scare, or lecture about cannabis. Instead, use active-listening skills in your conversations
- Focus on safety. Let them know of safer choices and help them establish limits and understand consequences
- Be informed. Be prepared with facts about cannabis
- Be supportive. Help youth find healthier coping strategies or professional help, if needed
- Be an example. Reflect on your own use of various substances and medications
For more information about how to talk to your teen about cannabis, please read Drug Free Kids Canada: Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk with Your Teen
Cannabis Lower Risk Use Guidelines and Reducing Harm
The best way to avoid the negative health effects of cannabis is to avoid using the substance completely. However, if you are planning to use cannabis, you can reduce your risk by following some recommendations:
- Delay using cannabis
- Start with small amounts
- Wait for full effects to occur before increasing your dose
- Limit how often you use cannabis
- Do not mix cannabis with alcohol or other drugs
- Avoid mixing cannabis with tobacco as smoking these substances together increases the risk of lung problems including lung cancer
- Avoid driving or participating in dangerous activities after cannabis consumption, as it can affect your decision-making, judgement, and coordination
- Avoid smoking cannabis, and choose lower-risk modes of consumption (e.g., ingesting)
For more information regarding cannabis use, please read:
Drug-impaired driving is a criminal offense in Canada, whether the impairment is from alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. Cannabis use affects decision-making, judgment and your ability to drive safely, and even small amounts can affect your reaction time, attention, and judgement, which can increase your risk of getting into a motor vehicle crash.
After alcohol, cannabis is the most prevalent substance found among injured or fatally injured drivers. The risk of crashing is even greater when cannabis is combined with alcohol or other drugs.
For more information about driving and cannabis use, please visit Don’t Drive High: Your life can change in an instant
Accessing Cannabis for Medical Purposes
At present in Canada, the only legal source of cannabis for medical purposes is that provided by a licensed producer, which can be supplied to patients upon receipt of a medical document provided by a physician.
For information on medical cannabis, please visit Understanding the New Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations
Cannabis and the Workplace
Ontario currently has strict rules in place to make sure workplaces are safe. Employers may set rules to prohibit cannabis use and impairment in the workplace, much like alcohol or other drugs.
- Government of Canada Health Effects of Cannabis Factsheet
- York Regional Police Cannabis Presentation
- Cannabasics - Canadian Public Health Association
- ConnexOntario – Addiction, Mental Health and problem Gambling: Helpline
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – Cannabis
- Cannabis & Psychosis (Schizophrenia Society of Canada) – Questions and Answers
- Government of Canada – Cannabis in Canada: Get the facts
- Ontario – Cannabis legalization