Smoke Show: Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Canada officially legalizes recreational marijuana, and we're breaking down the wheres, whats and hows of cannabis for each province and territory.

Smoke Show: Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Canada officially legalizes recreational marijuana, and we're breaking down the wheres, whats and hows of cannabis for each province and territory.

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OK, so weed is legal next week, but I feel like the rules are kind of all over the place. What do I need to know to make sure I follow the law?

– Gavin R., Victoria, B.C.



Oct. 17 is three days away, and marijuana users (soon-to-be and otherwise) are getting pretty ‘toked about legalization day. (See what we did there?)

We covered the legalization announcement back on Canada Day, including where to buy your high and some of the challenges that would come out of legalization, like border-crossing. (President Trump isn’t big on Aunt Mary.)

But even though July 1 was only a little over three months ago, there have already been regulatory changes to the legal cannabis system that we thought you might like to know about before stocking up on all your ganja goodies.



Bill C-45 is still finding its legs; as Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liquor Corporation’s VP of regulatory services and social responsibility, Sean Ryan, said, “It’s very much a work in progress,” with each province “working diligently [and] continuously on the regulations.” Since July 1, provincial governments have seen various elections and new political parties sworn into office, meaning that what was going to work in terms of cannabis legalization on Canada Day isn’t necessarily the same plan that’s in place now.

Here are the Canada-wide regulations to keep in mind before getting baked:

  1. Anyone of legal age can carry a maximum of 30 grams on their person (which also means you can only purchase that much in one go). And just FYI, the legal age differs across the country — it’s 19 everywhere except Alberta, Manitoba, and Québec, where 18 is the big ringer (but you still have to be 19 to buy marijuana in Manitoba). Confusing, right?
  2. The growing maximum is four plants per household.
  3. You may only be allowed to carry 30 grams, but you can store as much as you want in your home, no questions asked (#bless).

And because we know a lot of you are probably eager to (legally) get your hands on the goodies, we’ve broken it down province-by-province so you know just what you’re heading into.



Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (of the Liberal party) wanted to make cannabis available through government-run cannabis shops managed by the LCBO — unfortunately, current Premier Doug Ford (of the Progressive Conservative party) has axed that plan, opting to instead license privatized retailers, meaning Ontario won’t see any pot shops opening until April 2019.

The good news? Weed-loving entrepreneurs will have more opportunity in Ontario in the near future than they may have had under Wynne’s previous government-run retail system. The bad news? Anyone of legal age in Ontario will have to shop online if they want their ganja before next April.



Surprisingly, British Columbians (who, let’s be honest, the rest of Canada imagines as modern-day, toque-toting Bob Marleys) will only get one store, and that’s in Kamloops. The store will be government-run by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

British Columbians can take heart that more than 100 private store applications have been submitted to let the good folks of Canada’s West Coast in on the weed market, but it could take up to 18 months to get a privatized retail outlet to the approval stage.

Needless to say, the news has been a real buzzkill.



The Québécois are getting a lot of mixed signals right now.

Previously, the Société Québécoise du cannabis had planned to open 12 stores across the province, with nine of them ready to operate on Oct. 17 and the remaining three opening by the end of the month. However, with the Québécois having elected a new, anti-weed government at the end of September, things are looking a little…hazy.


Head here if you want to get stoned (and stone(d) cold, with its recent weather).

There will be a total of 17 (!) pot shops opening across the province in Canada’s heartland with even more opening in the months to follow. It’s expected that the first year of legalization in Alberta will close out with at least 250 steadily operating pot shops, which we’re sure will make the Calgary Stampede a lot more interesting for those not into horses or country music. (Come for the Rockies, stay for the buds.)


If you’re from Manitoba and want a visit from Mary Jane in the near future, this is your new motto: Definitely four, hoping for more. The paperwork has been slow-going in this province, so no one can tell you exactly where the cannabis retailers will be, only that they will (will they?) exist. Frankly, the whole situation over there is like something out of a 007 movie: License to Sell.



While there are 51 retail stores currently working on opening up in time for shortly after Oct. 17, four will be ready and waiting for tokers to come banging on their doors…except most people will have to go out of their way to get there. Unlike Alberta, which will have shops scattered throughout its major cities, Saskatchewan’s four pot shops are located in Yorkton (where?), the Rural Municipality of Edenwold (what?), Battleford and Martensvill (who?), and North Battleford (why?). (No offense to those that live there.)



When we imagine the smoke cloud that is going to hover over this relatively small province with the 24 pot shops it plans to cram inside its borders, we can’t help but smile. One visit after Oct. 17 should leave you with a secondhand high to last a lifetime. One of the biggest licensed retailers in this province? Loblaws, making buying pot and brownie mix together a snap.



Again, 20 shops in New Brunswick and 12 shops in Nova Scotia for legalization day (Oct. 17). These comparatively small provinces are stocked, while Ontarians get none? In the words of President Trump: SAD!



Three of the province’s four cannabis stores will be open in time for Oct.17, which basically means the weed needs of the entire province are being covered. Looks like the East Coast will be Canada’s new hippie hub!



Like its neighbours to the south, the Yukon is only setting up shop in one town just outside of Whitehorse, where the government has converted a large warehouse into a pot dispensary. (Sounds a little sketch.) Private retail is slated to begin in 2019, when the Cannabis Licensing Board will start accepting applications.



The Northwest Territories has your booze and doobs covered; starting Oct. 17, marijuana and liquor will be sold by the same government-run retailers until 2019, when the cannabis market will be open to private retailers in the province. And at least with NWT, the stores are in the major cities and pretty spread out, unlike some places we know about. (Sorry, Saskatchewan.)



Like Ontario, Nunavut has no plans to open physical retail space to the marijuana market. (We feel for you.) It does plan on introducing an online retail service that will be active on legalization day, but unlike the rest of the country, Nunavut is putting limits on the amount of weed a person can legally possess, capping it at 150 grams.



Not quite.

There are still going to be restrictions on how and where cannabis is consumed while the government tests the waters. So if you’ve got your own pot dispensary in the works, it’s important to note that edibles and concentrates won’t be legal for sale until October 2019 (not that that’s slowing down the entreprenurial spirits out there) — but don’t get your panties in a twist: we’re sure your grandmother has an age-old brownie recipe that would go perfectly with the Devil’s lettuce, and there’s nothing stopping you from making your edibles at home.

And just like carrying an open bottle of vodka into the PTA meeting at your kid’s school is frowned upon (we don’t judge), lighting up by the school drop-off while you wait to pick up your kids isn’t going to fly. Private residences are, of course, on the list of acceptable places to get buzzed, and that includes residential vehicles (as long as they match particular safety and size criteria).

It’s not okay if your home also operates as a business, or if your landlord tells you no. (Boo.) Also, if you’re renting an apartment or living in a condo, you’ll have to find somewhere other than your high-rise to get high. Other than that, the same general rules that apply to liquor and/or tobacco apply to marijuana as well.


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