Cannabis in Canada
On October 17, 2018, Canada became only the second country in the world (‘sup, Uruguay) to roll with the flow. To be blunt (sorry, we had to), recreational marijuana is now legal and the government has passed the puff to each province and territory to set their own rules. Still confused? Same. While this was a day for toking and smoking, questions remain as to how legalization will work in each province or territory. The provincial-level governments are ultimately the decision-makers regarding how you and I will go green; shaping the way legalized cannabis will get sold and consumed.
Much like alcohol, cannabis will now be, more or less, a normal thing. You don’t think buying a bottle of liquor at your local store is weird, right? That’s pretty much what’s happening with weed.
If you’re still wondering where all of this is headed, here are some of the set rules on cannabis.
Rules Do Apply
• Anyone of legal age in their province/territory can carry a maximum of 30 grams of weed per person and can buy the same amount per purchase.
• The legal age for each province varies: You have to be 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec; 19 everywhere else.
• Edible cannabis products will not be sold in Canada until a full year after legalization (i.e. weed brownies not for sale until 2019).
• If you’ve got a green thumb, you can grow a max of four cannabis plants per household, unless you live in Manitoba or Quebec, who are going against federal law and saying you can’t grow any.
• You can store (that’s store, not grow) as much cannabis as you want in your home.
• You can fly within Canada with the legal amount of 30 grams of weed. You cannot carry cannabis on flights outside the country and you can’t smoke on an airplane.
• You’re allowed to toke up in registered campsites across Canada’s national parks, according to Parks Canada, but see your park’s website for the specifics on day use and public use.
Cool. So What’s My Province Up To?
Different strokes for different folks. Some provinces and territories have a much more liberal approach to recreational legalization, allowing for private businesses to sell cannabis (hi, Newfoundland & Labrador). Other provinces, such as Quebec, are restricting the sale of cannabis to province-run dispensaries. Some parts of Canada are allowing the smoking of cannabis in public, while others require people to only consume cannabis in the privacy of their own homes. Case in point: there’s a lot going on and not every province and territory is doing the same thing. So here’s a quick rundown of who’s doing what when it comes to weed. Click your province if you want more deets.
In Ontario, you’ll be buying your recreational cannabis online from the Ontario Cannabis Store or at brick and mortar storefronts that won a system lottery through the government. You can light up in the same places cigarettes are allowed. Ontario will also let people smoke in some enclosed spaces, including designated guest rooms in hotels, long-term care homes, and hospices, but smoking in cars, boats, or near schools and kids’ parks are a no-no. Breaking the rules will result in a $1,000 to $5,000 fine.
British Columbia, the province best known for its high-flying buds, will have only one store open in Kamloops where you can buy if you’re 19+. The province’s Liquor Distribution Branch will take over the distribution of marijuana through government-run and privately licensed shops when more stores open in 2019. You can’t light up in the same places tobacco smokers can’t smoke, or anywhere children tend to be (i.e. schools, parks, etc.). Choose to ignore the rules and be ready to drop anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000 and/or spend up to 12 months in prison.
Alberta isn’t kidding around when it comes to cannabis. The province will have 17 stores ready to serve you (if you’re at least 18 years old) on legalization day with more set to open. You can buy your buds from privately-run pot shops licensed by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Commission. You can also buy online via Albertacannabis.org. Like other provinces, you can smoke the stuff in your home and public spaces where tobacco smoking is allowed but stay away from areas where children hang out. Got it?
Saskatchewan will have four privately-run pot stores up and running on legalization day with a few more opening up at a later date. If you’re 19+, you can buy cannabis online or in-store from government-licensed, privately-run stores. You can’t smoke in public, and don’t even think about getting high and getting behind the wheel – Saskatchewan has a zero-tolerance rule for drugs and driving.
Manitoba’s legal age is 19. You can buy cannabis in government-run shops, licensed private stores, and online. You can’t grow any of your own, though, and you can’t use cannabis in public. The only exceptions are designated rooms in hospital palliative care units and end-of-life hospices. Despite the tough restrictions, in 2020, Manitoba plans to ensure no consumer needs to drive 30 mins or more to access their cannabis – talk about service.
Sure, Quebec is following suit and legalizing marijuana like the rest of the country, but the province also just elected a super conservative, right-wing government that plans to crack down on cannabis, signalling that a change may be on its way. So don’t hold your smoke, Quebecers. But at least for now, the legal age to buy and consume cannabis is 18, the same as the drinking age (admit it, you went to Quebec to party as soon as you turned 18). And you can only get the green stuff from the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) – a new branch of Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) – kind of like Ontario’s LCBO.
In New Brunswick, the legal age is 19. You can purchase through government-operated stores and online sales – in other words, no private sales will be made available in N.B. You can grow plants indoors, but they have to be in a separate, locked space. If you want to garden the green outdoors, you have to do it in 1.52-metres high, locked enclosures. You can only smoke in private places.
Prince Edward Island’s legal age is 19 and cannabis will be sold in four government-operated retail locations and online as well. No private retailers will operate in P.E.I. If you want to use cannabis, you’re only allowed to do so within your home or yard, or designated hotel rooms. Public spaces are off-limits on this lovely island.
Nova Scotia’s legal age is also 19 and cannabis will be sold through government-operated stores and online. Don’t smoke cannabis anywhere you can’t spark a cigarette. You can, however, consume it in your own home or rented apartment, but landlords have the right to prohibit it. Let’s hope you’re caught up with the rent.
Newfoundland & Labrador set their legal age to consume, purchase, and possess marijuana at 19. You’ll be able to get your green online via the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC), or you can buy from government-licensed private retailers.
The Northwest Territories set the legal age at 19. You can purchase marijuana from the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s (NTLCC) purchasing system or through six NWT alcohol stores. When it’s time to enjoy your purchase, you can do so on your property, in parks when there’s no public event going down, or on trails and roadways (as long as you’re not operating a motor vehicle, obvs).
The legal age in Nunavut is 19, but due to consultation requirements with Nunavummiuts (aka residents of Nunavut – didn’t know that, did ya?), no stores will open this year. Private sales are permitted through agencies acting on behalf of the government and government sales are allowed online, by phone, and in-store. The government is still on the fence about allowing growing plants at home. You can’t smoke anywhere except in your own home, at designated cannabis events, and in lounges.
The Yukon will have government-operated stores as well as online sales with licensed, private sales starting operations six months after legalization. You can smoke on private property as well as designated areas in nursing homes and health-care facilities.
Is There A Difference Between Medical and Recreational Cannabis?
Cannabis is most likely going to experience a bit of a renaissance with legalization. Now that it’s available more widely, cannabis users may want to consider its more therapeutic effects. Two of the more well-known and researched types of cannabinoids are THC and CBD. One is tailored to get you high (THC), while the other (CBD) is meant to heal. If this is all news to you, sit tight, you’re about to get an education.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
You might have heard the phrase thrown around, or perhaps you’ve read up on THC; but what the heck is the endocannabinoid system?
Simply put, it is the system in our body that makes cannabis “work.” Our endocannabinoid system exists naturally in our body and was discovered by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam during his efforts to understand THC. Famous cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with receptors in our body to produce a large range of therapeutic effects, giving the cannabis plant its ability to heal and medicate conditions like chronic pain, mood disorders, and seizures attributed to epilepsy. Of course, like any drug, though, cannabis has its risks.
A basic understanding of cannabinoids can help both the recreational user and medical cannabis patient understand how to use this plant. There are tons of cannabinoids present within the plant, and new cannabinoids are constantly being discovered. Many cannabinoids, such as CBN or CBC, only exist in small amounts, so the focus for many patients and users remain on the two most famous cannabinoids: THC and CBD.
Likely the most famous of all the cannabinoids, THC is tied to the “high” associated with weed.
Strains or products that are high in THC are typically stronger, producing a psychoactive effect that can ease chronic pain but also get you high. Certain smoke-less cannabis products such as oils, tinctures, and edibles may list the amount of THC in a product in milligrams. For example: 100 milligrams of THC is considered a strong dose, but psychoactive effects can be experienced with doses as low as 10 milligrams.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the cannabinoid that offers the most therapeutic benefits to both existing and new medical cannabis patients.
This cannabinoid is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce the high that comes with the consumption of THC; rather, CBD can offer the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without tripping you out. CBD is found in certain strains of cannabis and can come in the form of oil, tinctures, and edible products.
Consuming Your Cannabis
The traditional methods of consuming cannabis are typically attributed to the “stoner stigma.” You know, joints, glass pipes, and bongs. But there are many other ways to consume your cannabis.
Vaporization: Dried herb vaporizers are all the rage. By vaporizing dried herb, you are heating the product to the point of vaporization and inhaling vapour instead of smoke. It’s less harmful than smoking and lasts longer which may save you $$$.
Edibles: Typically, edibles are stronger than smoking or vaporizing, and effects can take up to two hours to be felt after consuming.
Tincture: Cannabis-infused liquids that you place under your tongue. This smoke-free approach to consuming cannabis allows patients to feel the effects quicker. You’re able to consume cannabis without inhaling smoke.
Topicals: While cannabis salves, lotions, and even beauty products will certainly be hitting the market in the near future, these products still require plenty of research before companies can back the claims they make about them. Feel free to experiment, but just know that beauty products claiming to be infused with cannabis won’t get you high.