Where cannabis users will be allowed to smoke is still up in the air

As the provincial government continues to hammer out the details of cannabis legalization in Ontario, the issue of where pot smokers will be allowed to light up is top of some people's minds.

Ottawa's timeline for legalizing pot by next July 'will be challenging,' Yasir Naqvi tells Metro Morning

The federal government committed to make marijuana legal by Canada Day 2018 but it's up to the provinces and territories to figure out how it's regulated and distributed. (David Donnelly/CBC)

As the provincial government continues to hammer out the details of cannabis legalization in Ontario, the issue of where pot smokers will be allowed to light up is at the top of some people's minds. 

Last week the province posted a public survey online to solicit opinions on various aspects of the impending legalization of marijuana, and it has already received commentary on the question of where cannabis smokers should be able to toke.

In an interview with CBC's Metro Morning on Friday, the province's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi seemed to suggest that the public could look to tobacco bylaws for answers, adding that cannabis had already been written into the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

"So the same restrictions that apply to smoking [tobacco] apply to cannabis use as well," Naqvi said. 

That would mean that just like cigarettes, it'd be illegal to smoke weed on restaurant or bar patios, enclosed workplaces, common areas of multi-unit residences and anywhere near schools, to name a few places.

However hours after the attorney general's interview, a spokesperson for his office told CBC Toronto that Naqvi had made an error.

"The Attorney General misspoke when he indicated that cannabis is covered by Smoke Free Ontario. Cannabis is illegal, so it cannot be legally consumed anywhere," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

"The government has made no decisions with respect to places of use once cannabis is legalized by the federal government," the statement read.

After his initial comments, though, Naqvi did say in the same interview with Metro Morning that consultations on the specifics around indoor and outdoor use in private and public dwellings are subject to adjustment. 

"What I want people to know is that these issues are at the front and centre of our deliberations."

'Not work we've just started'

The federal government introduced the Cannabis Act this past April. If it's passed, marijuana will be legal across Canada by next July.

Ottawa has called on the provinces and territories to establish a framework to regulate the distribution, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Naqvi said that experts and government ministries have been weighing in since "well before" the Cannabis Act was introduced.

"The federal timeline will be challenging for all provinces and territories to meet," he said, but he added that "this is not work we've just started now."

The public's FAQ's

Since the survey was posted Wednesday, many people have been weighing-in, according to Naqvi. 

"There are a lot of points of view," he told host Matt Galloway.

One of the other most commonly asked questions people write in the surveys is: where will marijuana be sold?

Naqvi called Premier Kathleen Wynne's idea to sell it in LCBO stores an "attractive option" because the distribution framework is already established. 

The province is also looking at questions about the role, if any, dispensaries will have in marijuana retail. Right now, the only legally sold pot is for medical purposes and is delivered by Canada Post.

"One of the questions we're asking Ontarians is what format do they want to see it retailed," Naqvi said.

Previous possession charges

Many also ask about whether previous possession charges will be dropped come legalization. It's something Naqvi and Michael Coteau, the provincial minister of Children and Youth Services, have asked the federal government. 

"Many of the people that face charges are young people, people who are racialized," he said.

"They need to determine what to do with previous charges whether by way of pardoning or some other mechanism."

The public input survey is still open to those who wish to comment. 

If you have an opinion about factors like: Where it should be sold, minimum age for consumption, where people can smoke, you'll have to act fast. The survey closes on July 31.

With files from Metro Morning and Chris dela Torre