On October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis was legalized by the federal government of Canada.
Ontario laws are in place regarding how, where and who can buy and possess cannabis in the province. The minimum age to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis is 19. This is the same as the minimum age for the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
The City of Hamilton opted in to allow having provincially licensed retail cannabis stores in Hamilton.
Private cannabis retail stores
On April 1, 2019, the Province of Ontario elected to allow recreational cannabis to be sold online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and in privately operated retail stores. All cannabis retail stores are required to be stand-alone venues and can be open from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., any day of the week.
Adults 19 and older can purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store or in privately operated retail stores in the province.
In December 2019, the Province of Ontario announced that it was moving to an open market for retail cannabis stores. Potential retailers would still be required to apply for an operator’s license and store authorization from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario in municipalities that have opted-in to permit retail cannabis stores.
Regulating, enforcing and licensing
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is responsible for regulating and enforcing cannabis stores, including approving their locations and operations. While City Council and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on applications for cannabis stores, ultimately the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will decide if a retail cannabis store can open, not the municipality.
Cannabis in Hamilton
In 2019, all municipalities in Ontario were asked by the Province to make a decision to opt in or out of allowing private cannabis retail stores. Municipalities were required to decide whether to opt-out by January 22, 2019.
On January 14, 2019, Hamilton City Council approved a motion that provincially licensed retail cannabis stores be permitted in Hamilton, subject to Federal and Provincial regulations.
As the City of Hamilton opted in, retail cannabis stores are generally permitted in any area zoned for commercial or mixed use, such as:
- Business Improvement Areas (BIA)
- Strip malls
- Big box centres, or
- Neighbourhood retail such as variety stores.
In most situations, if a retail cannabis store would like to open in one of these areas, the only municipal approval required is a Building Permit, if applicable. A municipality is not allowed to license retail cannabis stores under its business licensing bylaw or establish a specific zone category for any proposed retail cannabis store.
To help ensure public health and safety, protect youth and reduce illegal sales, retail cannabis stores should generally not be located within 150 metres of:
- Parks and Open Spaces
- Alcohol and Detox Centres
- Day Nurseries/Child Care Centres
- Community Centres
- Mental Health/Addiction Centres
Note: Hamilton City Council guidelines and the City’s Cannabis Policy Statement states that canvassing is completed at the 300 metres mark, while the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario only requires 150 metres.
Under the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund, the Province will provide $40 million over two years to help municipalities with implementation costs of recreational cannabis legalization. The payment is on a per-household basis. The first payment was issued in 2019 to all municipalities regardless of whether they opt in or out to allow cannabis retail stores. Only municipalities that opted in will receive additional payments from the Province.
Hamilton opted in, so we received the first and second payment in May 2019 of $574,493 and $702,908 and a third payment in September 2019 of $292,879 was made from the Province to help with the implementation costs of legalization. Note: the amount has been determined based on the 2018 Municipal Property Assessment Corporation household numbers for total funding of $1,570.280.
Where you cannot smoke cannabis in Hamilton, as defined under the Smoke Free Ontario Act, 2017
Public consumption of cannabis is permitted under Provincial legislation. The Province regulates public consumption of cannabis the same as smoking a cigarette. However, in Hamilton, municipal smoking by-laws apply as well as the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
Tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and cannabis (both medical and non-medical) are prohibited in the following places:
- An enclosed public place
- An enclosed workplace
- A childcare centre
- The reserved seating of a sports arena, outdoor facility, or entertainment venue
- The outdoor grounds of a hospital, community health facility, or psychiatric facility
- Restaurant or bar patios,
- Children’s playgrounds and all public areas within 20 metres of any point of the perimeter of the playground. Including (but not limited to):
- Climbing apparatuses
- Splash pads
- Wading pools
- Sand boxes
- Sporting areas, spectator areas adjacent to sporting areas, and public areas within 20 metres of any point of the perimeter of a sporting area or spectator area. Examples include:
- Soccer field
- Football field
- Basketball court
- Tennis court
- Baseball, softball or cricket field
- Skating rink
- Beach volleyball court
- Running track
- Swimming pool
- Skateboarding park
- Common areas of multi-unit residences. Examples include:
- Parking garages
- Laundry facilities
- Exercise areas
- Party or entertainment rooms
- The outdoor grounds of community recreational facilities and the areas within 20 metres of the perimeter
- Public areas within 20 metres of the perimeter of the grounds of a school
- Public areas within 9 metres of a restaurant or bar patio
Fines under the Smoke Free Ontario Act vary depending on the location of where smoking is taking place.
Cannabis odours are not a significant issue in Hamilton around retail cannabis stores. These stores are regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s standards and are subject to the Building Code, Fire Code and Property Standards by-laws. Issues regarding smoking in public places, including outside of cannabis stores, are addressed through enforcement of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or applicable City by-laws, depending on the location.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are private retail cannabis stores allowed to operate in Hamilton?
Yes, Hamilton opted in to allow private cannabis stores in the city.
Where can I find a list of private retail cannabis stores in Hamilton?
To find a find an authorized Ontario Cannabis Store in your area visit: https://ocs.ca/pages/store-locator. All licensed retailers are regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Why did Hamilton decide to allow private retail cannabis stores?
On January 14, 2019, Hamilton City Council voted to permit cannabis retails stores in Hamilton. Permitting licensed retail cannabis stores will help reduce the illicit market and enable residents and visitors to access regulated products. The City will also receive additional funding from the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund to offset the costs related to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Permitting licensed retail cannabis stores will also create economic uplift and employment opportunities in the city.
What other municipalities allow the private sale of cannabis?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario maintains a list of municipalities who have opted-in and opted-out to private sales of cannabis. This list is updated daily.
Where can private retail cannabis stores be located in Hamilton?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is responsible for regulating and enforcing cannabis stores, including approving their locations and operations. While Council and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on applications for cannabis stores, ultimately the commission will decide if a cannabis store can open.
Retail cannabis stores may not be located within 150 metres of a school using the definition of school as defined in in the Education Act but are otherwise permitted in all areas zoned for retail use.
The Province has indicated that cannabis stores:
Must be stand-alone stores, meaning they cannot be located within a larger store.
Must be enclosed by walls separating it from any other commercial use or activity.
Cannot be entered or passed through to access any other commercial establishment or activity, other than a common area of an enclosed shopping mall.
How many private retail cannabis stores are allowed to open in Hamilton?
Currently, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has not provided a limit or capacity on how many stores are allowed to apply to operate.
I don’t want a cannabis retail store in my neighbourhood. Why did Council allow a store to open in my ward?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is responsible for regulating and enforcing cannabis stores, including approving their locations and operations. While Council and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on applications for cannabis stores, ultimately the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will decide if a cannabis store can open, not the municipality.
How can I review/comment on applications for private retail cannabis stores in Hamilton?
All active applications for cannabis Retail Store Authorizations are available to view on the iAGCO online portal, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s online service delivery portal.
After a Retail Store Authorization application is submitted, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will determine the dates of the posting period (15 calendar days) and will email the Public Notice placard to the applicant, who is responsible for printing and posting it visibly on the proposed store front.
Anyone can review these notices during the posting period by using the search tool in iAGCO. You do not need an iAGCO account to use this feature. Here are the steps for locating a notice and filing a written submission: Agco.ca/content/cannabis-submissions
Is the City responsible for issuing licences for private retail cannabis stores in Hamilton?
No. The government of Ontario announced that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is the regulator for privately run recreational cannabis stores. What this means is that these stores will be licenced through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario not by the municipality.
What are the private retail cannabis store licence requirements?
A municipality does not have the authority to license retail cannabis stores through business licensing or establish a specific zone category for any proposed retail cannabis store.
Can I be fined for smoking Cannabis in Hamilton?
The City of Hamilton bylaw 11-080 2(a) prohibits the smoking of tobacco, vaping and cannabis within City of Hamilton parks and recreation properties. If a person or persons are found to be smoking cannabis in contravention to the City of Hamilton bylaw they have the potential to be fined $305.00.
What happens if people don’t obey the City’s smoking by-law, what is the fine?
If a person or persons are found to be smoking cannabis in contravention to the City of Hamilton bylaw they have the potential to be fined $305.00.
Who do I call if I have cannabis related questions or a complaint?
- Complaints about impairment while driving call 9-1-1
- Questions about cannabis and policing in Hamilton visit: Hamiltonpolice.ca/prevention/cannabis-and-policing
- Complaints about illegal sales and illegal distribution of cannabis in Hamilton call 905-546-4925
- Complaints about smoking cannabis on municipal property and facilities; and in public spaces call 905-546-2489 or email [email protected]
- Questions related to health impacts (second hand smoke, impact on teens) visit Hamilton.ca/Cannabis
- Questions related to licensing can be emailed to [email protected]
- Complaints about cannabis odour can be emailed to [email protected]
Reports & Documents
- December 18 General Issues Committee Report: Cannabis Provincial Legislation (PED 18249)
- Cannabis Retail Operations Power Point Presentation December 18 2018
- City of Hamilton Cannabis Policy Statement (PED 18249) – Appendix A
- Legalization of Cannabis Estimated Incremental Costs (PED 18249) – Appendix B
- Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund (PED 18249) - Appendix C
- 150m Radial Separation from Schools in Hamilton (PED 18249) – Appendix D
- December 18 Motion: Dispensaries for Recreational Cannabis Sale
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