This is What Cannabis Legalization Will Look Like in Canada

On June 19, 2018, the Canadian Senate voted in favour of cannabis legalization. Although public responses have varied, every reaction was followed up with one burning question: What next?

Unfortunately, there’s no one clear answer. As recreational cannabis moves into the mainstream, each province and territory will have its own legislation regarding minimum age to purchase, where you can buy—and consume—and who will be able to sell. It’s an evolving landscape that licensed producers are navigating alongside ancillary businesses.

Here’s what you need to know about each province:

British Columbia

Despite being known for its laid back west coast vibes, both growers and consumers in B.C. will face more restrictions than a lot of other provinces. Smoking cannabis will be prohibited wherever smoking tobacco is, with the addition of community spaces (sports fields, skating rinks, playgrounds, etc) and anywhere else that kids might commonly gather. Law enforcement won’t be taking infractions lightly: you may face serious penalty (a $2,000+ fine or up to three months’ jail time) for public intoxication.

Micro-producers in British Columbia—licensed cannabis cultivators with a smaller, more focused operation, similar to current craft breweries—will also feel the sting of targeting, having to first sell their cannabis strains to the government and then buy it back if they wish to sell directly.

Alberta

Following their current legal drinking and smoking ages, the minimum age to purchase cannabis in Alberta will be 18—setting it apart from most of the country, which will still hold a strict 19+ age policy in line with their drinking laws.

Also unlike many other provinces, Alberta will allow for privately-owned retail sales and brick-and-mortar shops, placing a 15% cap on how much of the market each business can retain.

Saskatchewan

With arguably the most lax upcoming sales model in the country, Saskatchewan will allow for cannabis to be sold through privately-owned brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as online. This will be huge for retailers and will create more, varied options for consumers.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s minimum age to purchase policy doesn’t line up with smoking and drinking. Nineteen-year-olds will be in a bar with 18-year-olds, and the 19-year-olds will be allowed to go out and smoke pot while the 18-year-olds won’t. This is because, while minimum age to drink or buy cigarettes is 18 in the province, you will have to be at least 19 to purchase cannabis.

Another way Manitoba is going against the grain is in their home growing policies. While legalization will allow Canadians to possess up to four, personal-use plants, Manitoba (along with Quebec) has banned this practice.

Ontario

Without skipping a beat, Ontario will roll out an online retail platform provided by the Ontario Cannabis Store starting October 17—the day the legalization comes into effect. This will be followed up by a private, brick-and-mortar retail model launching April 1, 2019.

“The Government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” said Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli. “Instead, we will work with private sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”

Quebec

Not only will Quebec have the youngest age to purchase at 18—they’ll also have the cheapest product, at an average of $5.88 per gram. (Undoubtedly, this could add to Montreal’s reputation as a go-to party destination.)

Much like Manitoba, home growing will be banned in Quebec—however, there are plans to review the ban in two to three years, presumably after some fine-tuning of early operations.

NEW BRUNSWICK

New Brunswick is placing a heavy emphasis on “safety first” when it comes to cannabis. Private retail sales will not be available in this province, and all marijuana within a private residence will be required to be kept under lock and key—similar to the province’s current gun laws.

NEWFOUNDLAND

This province will likely get to make Canadian cannabis history, as the timezone primes it to be the first place to (legally) buy recreational marijuana in the country. Newfoundland will also be the only maritime province to allow privately owned retail stores—LP giants Canopy Growth will have four locations throughout the province, including an outlet attached directly to their grow facilities in St. John’s.

NOVA SCOTIA

According to StatsCan, Nova Scotia currently has the highest cannabis use per capita in the country—along with the largest recreational marijuana “black market”, as a result. In an attempt to dissuade people from illegal dispensaries—and overcome building logistics that go along with being a highly-rural, dispersed province—the province will allow cannabis sales within all existing NSLC liquor stores.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

P.E.I. is largely flying under the radar when it comes to cannabis. The province will roll out distribution similar to their current alcohol laws, with online and in-store purchase available through private sector only.

YUKON + NORTHWEST TERRITORIES + NUNAVUT

Based on their proximity to growers and producers, as well as size of community and demand, the territories will likely only ever experience cannabis sales via online purchase—although there is a possibility of the Yukon eventually rolling out brick-and-mortar shops.

Of course, as we move towards legalization over the next few months, it’s important to keep up to date with your own province’s rules and regulations so you know just what to expect come October 17, 2018.

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About Matei Olaru

Matei Olaru is the CEO of Lift & Co. He's a sought-after thought leader, speaking at numerous domestic and international cannabis conferences and appearing regularly on BNN, CBC, in Forbes, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Maclean’s.

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