With Canada’s legalisation of cannabis just around the corner many are still left wondering how the country will implement the sales of recreational pot.
As of October 17th, residents across Canada will be able to publicly purchase and use marijuana for recreation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left the decision to each province and territory in regards to how they would conduct sales and administer laws surrounding its use. Each province and territory have decided on the minimum age of purchase and whether cannabis will be licensed for private or public sale. There are other details that differ in each territory and province.
Canada is only the second country in the world to nationally legalize marijuana after Uruguay, and globally there is not really a “standard” when it comes to legislation thus far. The federal government has outlined some general legislative basics providing a template to help the provincial governments make their own laws on the matter.
These are the things the federal government has set as standard, with the provincial governments given the option to restrict further:
- Cannabis cannot be sold to seemingly intoxicated individuals
- 30 grams is the public possession limit
- Edibles will not be legal for sale (although there is speculation on whether that is just at the start or also ongoing into the future as well)
- Only dry (herb) cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis seeds & seedlings will be legally sold regardless of distribution ownership and/or platform
- If the province or territory does allow for home cultivation, the standard seems to be up to 4 per household (not per person)
- For landlords and renters, The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2017 was created by the government and allows landlords to enforce rules against possession, use, growth, and sale of cannabis in a rental unit
- Each province will also be able to have the control to make financial decisions such as the price of retail licenses
- Similar laws and prohibitions will apply to publicly smoking cannabis as they do for public tobacco smoking (not allowed in restaurants, parks, etc.)
- Similar laws and prohibitions apply for cannabis use in a motor vehicle as they do for alcohol use in a motor vehicle
- Must remain unopened and out of the reach of the driver
- ZERO cannabis use in a motor vehicle
- Minors are not allowed to enter any of the retail stores selling cannabis – even with a person of age
While most provinces and territories seem to be keeping the federal set standards surrounding cannabis legalization, here are some provincial-specific differences it’s important to be aware of if traveling in Canada and planning to carry or use recreational cannabis.
In British Columbia, the federal standard of 4 cannabis plants grown per household is the legal amount, however, they must not be visible from public spaces off the property.
In Manitoba, Quebec, & Nunavut, residents are not allowed to grow their own cannabis plants.
Similar to BC, in New Brunswick, if cannabis plants are grown outdoors they must be surrounded by a tall (at least 1.52m) locked enclosure, and if grown indoors, must also be grown in a separate, locked space.
Local bylaws in Nova Scotia may have further and/or added restrictions on cannabis plant cultivation despite the provincial government allowing the federal standard of up to 4 plants per household.
In the Northwest Territories, communities can try to have further cannabis prohibitions and/or restrictions approved.
Research & Residents
Many of the provinces and territories conducted research with their residents to determine public opinion about the legalization of cannabis.
Alberta – Albertans were able to read and review the province’s draft legislation to provide feedback and potential changes, however, more than three-quarters of respondents supported the policies and agreed upon the priorities in which they were created (such as protecting public health and keeping cannabis away from minors).
Ontario – The province consulted with public health experts, law enforcement, and Indigenous communities among many others to form their legislation. A survey was then released to the public for opinions and views on the legalization of cannabis. Similar to Albertans, Ontario residents were supportive of the legislation while still recognizing the priorities upon which they were built.
Saskatchewan – The province also performed a public opinion survey and incorporated the responses into their legislative frameworks. With each note regarding the law on legal cannabis purchasing, consuming, provisions, etc., there is also a note and/or sometimes a data graphic, representing the residents’ feedback to the matter.
As most legislation across Canada outlines 30 g of cannabis as the possession and/or purchase limit, this is referring specifically to dried cannabis flowers, also known as marijuana, “bud”, “herb”, etc. These are the equivalencies of dry cannabis in other common forms of use:
One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equivalent to:
- 5 grams of fresh cannabis
- 70 grams of liquid (e.g. oil) product
- 1 cannabis plant seed
Thirty (30) grams of dried cannabis is equivalent to:
- 150 grams of fresh cannabis
- 2100 grams of liquid (e.g oil) product
- 30 cannabis plant seeds
Here is a breakdown of what can be expected so far regarding sales, cultivation and homegrown based on where you live for 2018/2019.
A common concern expressed by the public and health and social service sectors has to do with driving while under the influence of cannabis. In late June federal laws regarding driving while impaired due to drug use were updated to address the issue. According to Canada’s Department of Justice, the new legislation “authorizes police to use additional tools, such as roadside oral fluid drug screeners, enacts new driving offences of being over a prohibited blood drug concentration, and allows for blood samples to be collected without first requiring a driver to undergo a drug recognition evaluation.”
The laws for alcohol and other drugs were also updated effective June 26, 2018. A maximum one-thousand-dollar fine is for the summary conviction offence for 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5 ng of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood. For larger amounts, and for subsequent offences 30- and 120-day prison sentences are the minimum with maximum’s at 10-year and life sentences for bodily harm or death caused by drug-impaired driving.
Like all things, with freedom comes responsibility. Opinions vary on the repercussions this will have on health and social care, whether there will be true benefits to the Canadian economy and tourism, and what further changes may occur if relationships with major trading partners such as the USA are harmed.
Time will tell whether the legal recreational use of marijuana will be good or bad for Canadians. In the meantime, it must be noted that the government of Canada has put a great trust in its people. May we all benefit from the increased freedoms given–one of so many freedoms enjoyed by Canadians and as a culture, representative of our collective tolerance for differences.