TORONTO—Ontario passed its cannabis legislation yesterday, firmly establishing the right to smoke marijuana in public in the province hours after recreational use of drug became legal across Canada.
The Progressive Conservative government's bill, changing previously-established regulations on where recreational pot can be used, was put to a final vote around 4:40 p.m. after closing statements from legislators, with 69 voting in favour and 41 against.
“It's a historic day,” Finance minister Vic Fedeli said in a speech to the legislature.
“It is the end of an era, it is the end of a prohibition.”
The bill, which loosens rules brought in by the previous Liberal regime, will allow Ontario residents to smoke recreational cannabis wherever the smoking of tobacco is permitted.
Premier Doug Ford, who faced criticism from the opposition for not having the bill in place before yesterday afternoon, noted that the online Ontario Cannabis Store handled more than 38,000 orders in its first few hours of business.
“They stayed up all night working to fulfil the orders and I'm very, very proud of them,” he said of those working on the web sales.
For now, cannabis only can be purchased through the government-run online portal, and Fedeli noted any orders placed through the site would not yet have been delivered.
Private retail pot stores are set to open in the province in April. Ontario has established 19 as the minimum age for cannabis use.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said yesterday that the Progressive Conservative government should have made passing cannabis legislation a priority after being sworn in this summer.
“Instead, we have a government scrambling to pass laws for a substance that is already legal,” she said, adding the government had decided to focus on other issues over the past months, such as Ford's move to slash the size of Toronto's city council.
“Nobody was unaware that it was Oct. 17 and yet we got pulled into this legislature time after time over the summer into the late mid-night hours to talk about his vendetta against his past foes at Toronto city hall,” Horwath charged.
The Ontario Cannabis Store website—which offers different types of pot with names such as Easy Cheesy, Super Sonic, and Shiskaberry—garnered mixed early reviews on social media, with some praising the website's simple design while others complained about high prices.
Fedeli said he was happy with initial reports on the store's sales and defended some of the more unusual products available on the site, including an “intimate” spray with cannabis ingredients designed for amorous couples.
“We'll leave it to the Ontario Cannabis Store to continue to put products out there that the people of Ontario are looking forward to purchasing,” he noted.