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All Aboard the Cannabis Train: A Look at Legalization from Coast to Coast

On October 17th, cannabis is set to be struck from the big bad ledger of illegal narcotics in Canada after 95 long years of prohibition. But don’t light that joint just yet! With change comes a variety of rules and regulations that are sure to confuse, and perhaps frustrate, many users around the country. As you may know, some legislation will be governed at the federal level, while other rules will be left to the provinces (and even individual municipalities) to decide. While not every piece of information is readily available to the public yet, we’d like to take you through what we do know about the different laws, depending on where you find yourself in the Great White North.

What Ottawa says: the federal rules

In a nutshell, the Cannabis Act sets guidelines around the sale, possession and use of cannabis, with most of the details left up to provincial governments to decide. When it comes into effect on October 17th, it will make recreational cannabis legal and accessible to Canadians aged 18 or older (this can be increased at each province’s discretion), allow the possession of up to 30 grams of the substance in public (also subject to change at a provincial level), and permit the at-home cultivation of a limited number of cannabis plants.

What’s left up to the provinces

Each Canadian province and territory will have complete jurisdiction over how, where and by whom cannabis can be sold. The federal government will also allow provincial lawmakers to:

  • Lower the possession limit (set federally at 30 grams)
  • Decide where cannabis can and cannot be used in public
  • Change at-home cultivation requirements (set federally at four or fewer)
  • Increase the minimum legal age (set federally at 18 years; only Quebec and Alberta are keeping it that low, with the rest of the country choosing to make it 19+)

Some provinces will even allow municipal involvement in the decision-making process. For example, in Ontario, municipalities will be given a one-time window to opt out of having a cannabis store on their territory, while Manitoba municipalities will be able to hold referendums banning cannabis stores in their community.

So where will I be able to buy my weed?

It depends on where you live! While all provinces have a plan for distribution and sales, the implementation differs widely from coast to coast. Only Manitoba and Saskatchewan don’t have plans for public sales; the rest of the provinces and territories will have government-run storefronts in place.

But what if you’re outside of Manitoba or Saskatchewan and dream of opening your very own great Canadian pot shop? If you’re in Quebec or the Maritimes, you’re out of luck, as only public storefronts will be allowed. Here are the provinces and territories that will allow private sales in addition to the public distribution model:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador (pricing and gross profits will be set by the government)
  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Northwest Territories (sales will be allowed in privately operated liquor stores)
  • Nunavut (however, consultations are still ongoing and no stores will open in 2018)
  • Ontario (plans to allow private retail sales starting April 2019; until then, sales will be government-run on an online platform)

Will I be able to toke in public? How about in my car?

Again, it depends. Cannabis use in vehicles, for example, will be prohibited across the board, with the only known exception being the Northwest Territories’ provision, allowing it to be consumed inside a vehicle that’s officially designated as a residence. Consumption of recreational cannabis will be restricted to private properties and residences in:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nova Scotia
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario (subject to landlord restrictions)
  • Saskatchewan (use around minors restricted)
  • Yukon (subject to landlord restrictions)

In the rest of Canada, public consumption will be allowed under certain restrictions. You won’t be allowed to smoke weed anywhere tobacco use is already prohibited, nor will cannabis use be legal in areas frequented by children.

Knowledge is power!

As you can see, legalization in Canada is far from black and white. Each province and territory will implement the different facets of the trailblazing Cannabis Act according to its own legal framework. Whether or not you’re a consumer, we strongly encourage you to take the time to get informed about the laws and restrictions; after all, pot will become part of our new normal, so it’s essential to know what’s in store. The above overview is just a starting point. If you’d like to dig deeper, we’ll leave you with links to each jurisdiction’s plans. It’s worth the read!

Newfoundland and Labrador / Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island / New Brunswick / Quebec / Ontario / Manitoba / Saskatchewan / Alberta / British Columbia / Yukon / Northwest Territories / Nunavut

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