Legal recreational marijuana will become a reality in Canada on Oct. 17. Here’s what different governments are doing to prepare, and what you need to know about what comes next.
Recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada on Oct. 17. Will you be ready?
Since the Trudeau government made legalization a reality this summer, provinces and territories have chosen very different paths for ending the century-old prohibition of the drug. Some, like Manitoba, are leaving sales exclusively to the private sector. Others, like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are handling the pot business through their provincial liquor commissions. And then there’s Ontario, which changed course from public to private retail and won’t have bricks-and-mortar stores until some time next year.
This guide will detail how cannabis legalization will play out where you live. We’ll continue to update it as more jurisdictions release details on how they plan on regulating recreational marijuana.
Overview: What legalization looks like
- Who controls the cannabis trade: Whether cannabis is sold in your community through private businesses, government-run shops, online delivery services or a mix of both, the drug will be strictly regulated by federal and provincial rules. Companies that produce or distribute it go through a rigorous Health Canada licensing process.
- Who can produce it: As of September, there were 118 producers licensed by Health Canada to supply medical or recreational markets. So far, Ontario and B.C. are the biggest producers, with 63 and 25 licenses, respectively. Health Canada isn’t capping the number of licenses, to guard against a scenario where scarce licenses become a lucrative commodity.
- Who can grow it at home: Adults can grow up to four plants at home, except in Quebec and Manitoba, which have banned home cultivation. Other provinces have their own rules on where the plants can be grown in the home and how those spaces should be locked or enclosed.
- What can be produced and sold: So far, only dried and fresh cannabis and unconcentrated forms of cannabis oil are being legalized. When you buy it, it’ll come in plain packaging, with information on its THC content and warning labels about its possible health risks. Ottawa plans to work out rules within a year for edibles, extracts and concentrates, but for now those products are still on the black or grey market.
- Who can buy it: Ottawa has set 18 as the minimum age for those who want to buy or use the drug recreationally, though every province and territory (except for Alberta and Quebec) raised their minimums to 19.
- What you pay for it: Retail prices may vary depending on the product and where you’re buying it. Cannabis will be taxed at $1 a gram or 10 per cent, whichever is higher.
- Where you can carry and use it: When you’re carrying your stash around, you’ll be allowed to carry up to 30 grams outside your residence, and share up to that amount with other adults. As for smoking it, the Cannabis Act left it to provinces, territories and municipalities to decide where its use can be restricted.
Alberta turned to the private sector to sell recreational cannabis, though the province will maintain control over online sales through Alberta Cannabis. The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission will oversee distribution and enforcement while owner-operators will set their own prices and won’t be able to sell items other than cannabis and cannabis accessories. Seventeen shops will be licensed to open on legalization day, the liquor commission says.
Age limit: 18
- Retailers will not be able to sell marijuana alongside alcohol, pharmaceuticals or tobacco
- Marijuana use through smoking or vaping will be disallowed in spaces that often have children present, such as playgrounds. Municipalities will be able to set additional limits on where cannabis can be consumed
- Drug-impaired driving will not be allowed and will be penalized similarly to how driving under the influence of alcohol is currently enforced
- The province is pitching in $11.2-million to help communities with additional policing needs after legalization day
Canada’s westernmost province will have a mix of provincially run and licensed private stores, but by legalization day only one of them, in Kamloops, will be up and running. The government will be the only wholesaler, through its liquor distribution corporation and its Shopify-run online retailer, the B.C. Cannabis Stores. The province has received 173 applications for retail outlets, but fewer than half of those have been submitted for review by local governments, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.
Age limit: 19
- Marijuana and alcohol cannot be sold in the same store
- Municipalities will be able to determine if cannabis is sold within their jurisdiction
- Smoking cannabis in public places is primarily limited to where smoking cigarettes and vaping is legal, but consumption will be prohibited on school grounds and other areas frequented by children
- Adults can grow up to four plants per dwelling but landlords can disallow cultivation and use by tenants. Plants cannot be visible to the public and they will not be allowed in daycares or assisted living homes
Cannabis sales will be exclusively private in the province, both in brick-and-mortar locations and via the internet. Four organizations have been approved to operate shops, but as of Oct. 11 none had the licenses needed to sell to the public, a provincial spokeswoman told The Canadian Press. The provincial government will be the sole wholesaler and will be responsible for overseeing distribution. Retailers will determine sale price themselves.
Age limit: 19
- Marijuana and alcohol will not be allowed to be sold in the same store
- Municipalities can choose to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction after holding a plebiscite
- Manitobans will not be allowed to grow plants in their homes
- Cannabis can only be transported in the trunk of a vehicle or behind the last seat of vehicles that do not have separate trunks
New Brunswick will sell to residents online and through a subsidiary of NB Liquor, the provincial liquor commission. The province’s 20 Cannabis NB stores will be managed by a Crown corporation, selling cannabis products at between $8 and $16 a gram. Staff are trained similar to how sommeliers are and a home-delivery service has been established.
Age limit: 19
- If you store cannabis inside your home, you will need to maintain it in a locked container or room. Residents who grow outside will need to do so in locked enclosures at least 1.52 metres high
- Consumption is not allowed in vehicles
- Use of cannabis products is primarily limited to private dwellings
Newfoundland and Labrador
Legal recreational cannabis will be sold through private retailers, but the provincial liquor corporation will be responsible for distribution. More than 20 are expected to be open by legalization day, but the exact number is not yet clear, a spokesman for the liquor corporation told The Canadian Press. Online sales will be handled exclusively by a provincial store, though the province hasn’t ruled out eventually allowing some private retailers to sell online. The provincial store is also in charge of setting prices for retailers.
Age limit: 19
- Consumption will be prohibited outside of private residences
- Co-location will be prohibited where there is access to a pharmacy
Legal recreational cannabis in the Northwest Territories will be administered by the territory’s Liquor Commission, with the organization taking control of imports and sales. Residents can buy products through five bricks-and-mortar stores or via a mail-order service run by the Liquor Commission.
Age limit: 19
- Smoking in public places will be prohibited wherever tobacco smoking is prohibited, as well as in crowded places and parks regularly used by children
- Communities can choose to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction after holding a plebiscite
- Initially, only fresh or dried cannabis will be sold; edibles won’t be available until there are federal laws about how to sell and use them
Alcohol and legal recreational cannabis will be sold alongside each other in provincial liquor stores, and online sales will be controlled by the government’s liquor corporation. As an added step to make sure only those of legal age buy online, consumers will first have to go to a participating liquor store and get a card with an access code. There will be 12 locations open on legalization day, though the province has warned it’ll have less product than the quantities requested.
Age limit: 19
- For those under the legal age, five grams is the maximum amount of possession before penalties will be enforced
- Cannabis use is not allowed in vehicles
- Public use will be limited and restricted as per Nova Scotia’s Smoke-free Places Act
Residents of Nunavut will be able to purchase cannabis online, but no brick-and-mortar retailers will be established in 2018. The territorial liquor commission will be the distributor and a mix of private and public retail options will exist eventually.
Age limit: 19
- Adults can grow up to four plants per dwelling but landlords can disallow cultivation and use by tenants
- Smoking cannabis in public places is prohibited where smoking tobacco is prohibited and consumption will be disallowed on school grounds and other areas frequented by children
- Regulation of edibles and other cannabis products will be determined later
Under premier Kathleen Wynne, Canada’s largest province was the first to introduce details on how it would sell cannabis – but the plan changed dramatically under her successor, Doug Ford, and now Ontarians may be the last in Canada to smoke up from store-bought weed. Originally, Ms. Wynne wanted sales to be handled through the LCBO, the provincially run liquor authority. But Mr. Ford instead decided to use private retailers, a decision announced less than three months before national legalization day. Starting Oct. 17, Ontarians will be able to buy online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, but bricks-and-mortar private stores won’t be opening until after a retail framework is set up by April 1, the province says.
Age limit: 19
- Licensed growers will be limited to just one store each, but the province’s framework allows for an unlimited number of private stores
- Municipal governments have a one-time window to opt out of allowing cannabis stores, though they likely won’t know how long that window is until after October’s municipal elections
- Drug-impaired driving will see stiffer penalties than currently exist, and there will be a zero-tolerance policy for young, novice or commercial drivers
- The Ford government wants to loosen public-consumption laws to mirror the Smoke Free Ontario Act, which allows smoking outdoors but not within nine metres of most public buildings, or within 20 metres of a children’s play area
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island will be selling legal recreational marijuana through stores operated by its liquor commission, though alcohol will not be sold there. The stores are in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and the West Prince region. Residents will be able to order by mail through a government-operated online retailer.
Age limit: 19
- Consumption is limited to private dwellings, though the government says it may eventually choose other designated locations for cannabis use
- Edibles won’t be sold until the federal government sets out guidelines for them
Legal recreational marijuana will be sold in Quebec through a new government agency, the Société québécoise du cannabis, while the distributor will be the province’s liquor agency. A dozen stores are expected to be open by legalization day, but the goal is to eventually have 20. But once Quebeckers have their drugs, they will face some of the most restrictive rules on where they can use it: The Coalition Avenir Québec government, elected two weeks before legalization, wants to bar cannabis use in nearly all public places.
Age limit: 18 for now, but the CAQ government plans to eventually raise it to 21
- There will be a zero-tolerance policy for drug-impaired drivers
- Quebeckers will not be allowed to grow plants in their homes
- Marijuana and alcohol will not be sold in the same store
Private retailers will be in charge of selling cannabis in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has issued 51 permits across the province, but only about a third of the locations will be ready to open by Oct. 17, a spokesman for the liquor agency told The Canadian Press.
Age limit: 19
- Municipalities and First Nations can to opt out of having cannabis sold within their jurisdiction
- Consumption in public places, including schools and daycares, is not allowed
- Possession of any amount by a minor is disallowed
The Yukon will have only one government-owned-and-operated retail location, as well as a government-run online sales option. The territory will also let licensed private businesses enter the marketplace and sell to residents.
Age limit: 19
- Consumption will be prohibited outside of private residences and their adjoining properties
- Any plants that are grown must not be accessible to minors
In 2017, Canadians spent an estimated $5.7-billion on cannabis, according to Statistics Canada. Around five million Canadians reportedly purchased medical and non-medical marijuana last year and the average user spent about $1,200 on cannabis products. Needless to say, legalized recreational cannabis is set to be big business.
The Globe and Mail, March 23, 2018