Though the use of recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada a few years ago, people still have many questions about what is and is not legal. And this confusion is understandable.
Though the government has rules and regulations in place at a national level, each province and territory has the ability to set its own rules and regulations (within certain restrictions). This can make knowing what is legal in your area difficult.
But don’t worry—we are here to help. In this guide, you’ll find valuable information on what is legal and what is not when it comes to cannabis and all the products it encompasses. Plus, we’ll give you resources to help you feel confident in your cannabis-related decisions.
The Cannabis Act of 2018
The Cannabis Act came into law in October of 2018. This particular law creates a framework for controlling the sale, possession, production, and distribution of cannabis in Canada. With that, it also aimed to prevent youths from accessing cannabis and shut down the illegal cannabis market.
To accomplish these goals, this law set age restrictions on who can possess and use cannabis and its products, restrictions on how much cannabis people can grow and possess, and even marketing standards (which we’ll look at a little later in this article). It also established penalties for those found to be in non-compliance with these laws.
Federal guidelines state that adults 18 years and older are able to possess, share, and buy products from licensed cannabis retailers. However, these rules are subject to provincial or territorial restrictions. Here’s a breakdown of how much cannabis you can possess, share, grow, and buy:
- Adults can possess up to 30 grams of dried, legal cannabis (or its non-dried form).
- Adults can share up to 30 grams with other adults.
- Adults can grow up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use (but be sure you purchase these plants or seeds from a licensed retailer).
If you plan to make your own cannabis edibles or other cannabis products at home, you can as long as you do not use organic solvents to make cannabis concentrates. But to be honest, making concentrates is a bit of a tricky and dangerous business, so it may just be best for you to buy those from an authorized dispensary.
If cannabis edibles are your preferred product of choice, great. As of October 2019, you can also purchase these from licensed retailers. Making your own can be fun, but sometimes having some ready to use is more convenient (and it may be better if you aren’t known for your baking and cooking skills).
Now, earlier, we mentioned that you could carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis product or its equivalent. So, what is the equivalent of dried cannabis in various products? Look below to see.
- Fresh cannabis: five grams
- Edibles: 15 grams
- Liquid cannabis products: 70 grams
- Cannabis concentrates (solid and liquid): 0.25 grams
- Cannabis seeds: One
Each territory and province has the right to change these limitations to be lower or higher. You will need to look up the rules where you live to ensure you follow them.
Buying Cannabis: What You Need to Know
Due to its legalization, buying cannabis may seem easier than ever; and in many ways, it is. But there are restrictions on who you can legally buy cannabis products from and who can sell cannabis.
On a national level, adults who are over the age of 18 can buy cannabis and cannabis products from licensed retailers. Online dispensaries are another option, but only if it is federally licensed and follows local guidelines.
It is important to note that some territories and provinces have different rules. For example, they may have chosen to raise the legal age to use cannabis to 19 or 21. Although local governments have the ability to raise the age, they cannot lower the age, so nowhere in Canada can people under 18 buy or sell cannabis.
In addition to buying cannabis, it is illegal for you (or any person) to give weed to someone underage. Getting caught doing so can land you in jail, with the maximum sentence being 14 years behind bars. This could be the case whether you sell it to them or just give them some of yours to try. Before you share your product with anyone, make sure you know they are of age.
While you can grow up to four cannabis plants in your home for personal use, you cannot grow them with the intention of selling them or any products made from them. To sell and distribute cannabis, you must be a licensed and authorized retailer. But if you have a green thumb, feel free to buy and grow a plant or two of your own.
Traveling with Cannabis: The Dos and Don’ts
As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down (a little, at least), more people are ready to take that long-delayed trip or summer vacation. But traveling with cannabis potentially can present even more challenges and confusion when it comes to the legality of it. Thankfully, the rules are pretty straightforward.
The first step in determining if you can travel with cannabis is to know if you are planning to leave Canada or stay inside Canada on your trip. Here are some dos and don’ts for every situation.
When traveling within Canada:
- Do ensure you meet the age requirements where you are, where you are going, and anywhere you are going to pass through, especially if traveling by car.
- Don’t use cannabis before operating a car on your trip (more on this in the next section).
- Do ensure you do not possess more than the legal limit in the place you are in, going to, and passing through.
- Do take time to research the restrictions of the territory or province you are visiting and abide by them.
When traveling outside of Canada:
- Don’t take cannabis with you; it is illegal to carry cannabis across the border, even if you are going somewhere where its use is legal.
- Do know the laws in the place you are traveling to. You may be able to purchase some there, or you may not be able to use it at all.
- Don’t try to sneak it with you; if you are caught with it, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting and may even be denied entry.
Finally, if you are entering Canada on the return trip from your vacation:
- Do leave the cannabis behind. Again, it is illegal to carry cannabis across the border, even if you are entering the country.
- Don’t forget to declare any cannabis (any amount or form) you have if you accidentally bring it with you to the CBSA.
Driving and Cannabis: Your Roadmap
If you are planning to take a drive after using cannabis (in any form), don’t. Driving under the influence of any drug, including cannabis, is a criminal offence in Canada. If you are caught driving while impaired, you can face steep penalties, including:
- Jail time
- Criminal charges
Canadian police are trained to detect those driving under the influence of drugs and/or cannabis. They may ask you to do a field sobriety test, ask you to provide a blood or urine sample for testing, or bring in a drug recognition expert to evaluate the situation.
So, though you can travel WITH cannabis, do not drive after or while using it. You may also want to be sure your cannabis is in the trunk to avoid any issues or suspicion you are using cannabis while traveling (and in some places, it needs to be there anyway).
How to Keep Up with the Different Rules
Keeping track of what is legal where can be a daunting task. Luckily, there is a simple place you can go to see the most up-to-date restrictions in each province and territory. Simply visit this webpage and find the location you plan to go to, as well as any you may travel through.
Is the Cannabis You Are Buying Legal? What to Look for
One of the goals of the Cannabis Act was to close down the illegal cannabis market. To do this, retailers must be licensed to sell and operate. So, how can you tell if you are buying a legal product or one from a basement grower? It’s easy.
There are three things legal cannabis products need to have on their packaging/label, including:
- An excise stamp. These provide tracking information such as unique area identifiers. Each province and territory has a unique colour.
- The cannabis symbol. This is a white cannabis leaf in a red and black octagon.
- Mandatory health warnings. The government requires these, and different cannabis products will contain different warnings.
If you are buying from a licensed dispensary, you can feel confident they are selling only legal products.
Calling All Dispensaries: What You Need to Know
Now that we’ve covered what cannabis users need to know, let’s switch our focus to what sellers and dispensaries need to know. Though this information is more valuable for those marketing and distributing cannabis, users may find it interesting as well.
To get licensed, you may need to apply for one or two licenses, depending on your business. If you plan to sell cannabis for medical use or do any testing or research using cannabis, you will need to have a license from Health Canada. You will be responsible for keeping this license up-to-date and renewing it as required.
If you plan to sell cannabis (medically or for recreational use), you will also need a license from the Canada Revenue Agency. This is the license that allows you to sell cannabis. To stay compliant with this license, you will need to buy excise stamps to adhere to your products (we discussed these in an earlier section) and pay your duties.
Local territories and provinces may also have other licensing restrictions in place. So, be sure you look up exactly what is needed where you plan to operate.
Marketing and Packing Restrictions
A goal of the Cannabis Act was to prevent youths from accessing weed. That means packaging and labels should not appeal to kids. There are restrictions around colors (no fluorescents) that can be used, and cartoon characters on packaging and as part of logos are not allowed.
Packaging must also be opaque so minors cannot see what is inside. And that’s just some of the restrictions. Be sure to look and follow them carefully as you choose your brand and packaging designs.
Labels also must contain certain information as laid out by law. The claims you make on your package need to be factual (such as the amount of THC and CBD your product contains). You will also need to include the standard cannabis symbol and required warnings as the specified text size.
There can be a lot you need to fit on your labels and packaging, so knowing what you need to include before designing is essential. Plus, restrictions and guidelines are always subject to change, so be sure to stay on top of industry regulation updates.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Legalities
There are many rules and regulations in place when it comes to using, buying, selling, and even possessing cannabis in Canada. Though they may seem like a lot, they are in place to help prevent cannabis from getting to minors and prevent it from being sold on the “black market.”
Though there is a lot of information in this guide, so the biggest takeaways to remember are:
- Federal law states you must be at least 18 to use or possess marijuana.
- There are restrictions on how much cannabis you can have in your possession.
- It is illegal to take cannabis across the Canadian border.
- Do not drive while under the influence of marijuana.
- Know the laws of the territory or province you are visiting, as they may differ from federal laws.
Be smart about your cannabis use and do your research before buying or traveling, and you should be set.