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Recreational Cannabis

Recreational cannabis was legalized on October 17, 2018 by the Federal Government. On September 25, 2018, the Province put rules in place about how, where and who can buy, possess and use recreational cannabis in Ontario. The City of Barrie will allow private cannabis retail stores, but is making a number of requests to the Province to increase the distance between cannabis retail stores and sensitive uses or other cannabis retail stores.

Private Cannabis Retail Stores

People 19 and over are able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store ( In addition to online, the Provincial Government has committed to a private retail model for recreational cannabis that will begin on April 1, 2019. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the provincial regulator authorized to grant store licences. The AGCO will be responsible for operational licensing and determining where stores may be located. All cannabis retail stores will be required to be stand-alone venues and can be open 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., any day of the week.


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 are required to decide whether to opt-out by January 22, 2019. The prohibition could be lifted by a later resolution passed by the municipality. However, once a prohibition has been lifted, the decision is final and may not be reversed at a later date.

On Jan. 14, 2019, City Council approved a motion that provincially licensed cannabis retail stores be permitted in Barrie, subject to Federal and Provincial regulations. Council also approved a Cannabis Public Interest Statement to be sent to the AGCO to request doubling the distance recreation cannabis retail stores can be from schools (from 150 to 300 metres), as well as a 150 metre distance separation from certain facilities (daycares, treatment centres for addiction, recreational facilities and parks, libraries and youth-oriented facilities). The decision will ultimately be left up to the Province.

Provincial Cannabis Recreational Retail Store Lottery

Cannabis stores will be opening in phases across Ontario. An initial phase of up to 25 retail store authorizations across Ontario will be issued, to allow operators to open for business April 1, 2019. The AGCO has implemented a lottery system to determine who is eligible for the initial cannabis retail store licences to legally operate in Ontario. The results of the lottery are posted on the AGCO website.

The AGCO will provide municipalities and the public with a 15-day notification period of a proposed store site to receive public input. The public notification of a proposed cannabis retail store will be posted on the building and on the AGCO’s website. The notice would include a request for the municipality and its residents to make written submissions to the Registrar in respect of whether the Retail Store Authorization is in the public interest as defined by the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018. The matters the Province has defined as public interest are:

a) Protecting public health and safety;
b) Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis; and
c) Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

Feedback will be considered only if it is related to the public interest matters identified above. The AGCO is required to consider the written submissions in determining the issuance of a Retail Store Authorization approval, but this does not ensure that an authorization would be withheld where a municipality was not in favour of the proposed location, as the ultimate decision rests with the AGCO.

Provincial Funding

The Province is providing $40 million over two years to help municipalities with costs surrounding cannabis legalization. The payment is on per-household basis. The first payment will be issued to all municipalities regardless of whether they opt in or out to allowing cannabis retail stores. Only municipalities that opt in will receive a second payment from the Province. Barrie has opted in, so will receive one payment of $136,869 and a second payment (amount to be determined) from the Province to help with the implementation costs of legalization.

One-third of the initial funding will go to Barrie Police Service for enforcement, the remainder to the City and service partners for communication with the public and retail store applicants, court resources and hiring more Municipal Law Enforcement Officers, if necessary, to enforce regulations in parks, workplaces and public places.

Where you cannot smoke cannabis in Barrie

Public consumption of cannabis is permitted under Provincial legislation. The Province regulates public consumption of cannabis the same as smoking a cigarette. However, in Barrie, municipal smoking by-laws apply as well as the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

The City of Barrie’s smoking by-laws will prohibit cannabis smoking and vaping in public places (ie. sidewalks, walkways and parks) and workplaces.

Failure to obey the City’s Smoking Bylaws could result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to $100,000 if on City property such as a park.

Health effects of cannabis

Cannabis, like other drugs, can be harmful to your health. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has information related to the impacts cannabis can have on your health.  The risks are increased when use begins in the teen years and when cannabis is used on a daily or near-daily basis. People with a history of drug and/or mental health problems are also at an increased risk for experiencing harms related to cannabis use.

The effects of cannabis you might experience depends on who you are: your age, your health and your family’s medical history. It also depends on the product you’re using. If you are choosing to use cannabis it is important for you to know what you are using, how strong it is, and how long the effects might last.

Youth tend to see cannabis as a natural, harmless substance. Cannabis is illegal to possess if under 19 and it is illegal for someone to provide or sell cannabis to someone under 19.

Regular use of cannabis during the teen years can harm the developing brain. Teens can reduce their risks by waiting as long as possible before beginning use – ideally until their mid-twenties when the brain is fully developed

Frequently Asked Questions
Why did Barrie decide to allow recreational cannabis retails stores?

Barrie opted in to allowing cannabis retail stores for the following reasons:
• To combat the criminal market and reduce access for youth.
• To reduce the illegal sales and the associated negative behaviours and activities that often accompany them. This would be beneficial to the residents and businesses in the areas of the community where these sales have been occurring.
• Municipalities that permit cannabis retail sales are far more likely to have the ability to influence future legislation including locational and operating criteria for establishments, as the experience with the recreational cannabis sector evolves.
• Barrie will receive a greater level of funding than those that opt-out.

Where can I smoke/vape cannabis in Barrie?

A person can vape/smoke cannabis in Barrie on private property. Council has directed that the City’s bylaws be amended to prohibit cannabis smoking and vaping in all public spaces (ie. sidewalks, walkways and parks) and workplaces. Failure to obey the City’s Smoking Bylaws could result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to $100,000 if on City property such as a park.

Where could cannabis retail stores be located in Barrie?

The Province has regulated that Cannabis retail stores cannot be within 150 metres of schools. The AGCO will ultimately be responsible for determining where stores may be located. However, the City of Barrie has made a request to the AGCO to double the distance between retail stores and schools to 300 metres in Barrie. The City has also requested a 150 metre distance separation from certain facilities (daycares, treatment centres for addiction, recreational facilities and parks, libraries and youth-oriented facilities). The decision will ultimately be left up to the Province.

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