Canada: Cannabis Legalized In Canada

Cannabis Legalized – October 17, 2018

The cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, and Canada is at the forefront as the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis and cannabis related products. Here's a little cheat sheet on the Cannabis Act ("Act"), which came into force today, and a bit about how the Act will impact British Columbia ("BC") consumers and cannabusinesses.

TL;DR: The Act (a) makes it legal to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, subject to provincial restrictions, (b) legalizes household cultivation of up to four plants no more than 1 meter in height, (c) introduces new criminal penalties for youth-related offences, illegal possession or distribution, and driving related offences, and (d) prohibits certain packaging and advertising practices. The Act leaves a number of matters to provinces and territories to decide, including matters of public health and business, meaning BC's regulatory framework will still apply (because: federalism), and only one store in BC selling non-medicinal cannabis is opened as of today (in Kamloops). In BC, adults (a) can possess up to 1,000 grams of dried cannabis in a private place, and (b) can generally smoke cannabis anywhere smoking and vaping are permitted. The Liquor Control Branch has not yet permitted private non-medical cannabis retailers to open their doors. We will keep you posted on legal developments in the cannabis industry, specifically regarding private retail sales of non-medical cannabis in BC.

Cannabis Act

The Act makes it legal for adults to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public for non-medical purposes, subject to provincial or territorial restrictions. The Act has three main goals:

  1. keep cannabis out of the hands of youth;
  2. keep profits out of the hands of criminals; and
  3. protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis.

These purposes will be key in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Act and consequential amendments to other legislation.


The Act makes it legal for adults 18 years or older to:

  • possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public;
  • share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults;
  • buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer;
  • in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals would be able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers;
  • grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use; and
  • make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.

Edibles and concentrates will not be legal for sale until approximately a year from today.


Household growers may have up to four plants of up to 1 meter in height for personal use, except in Quebec and Manitoba.


The Act introduces new criminal offences with penalties ranging from potential fines for minor offences to maximum penalties between 5 and 14 years' imprisonment for (a) giving or selling cannabis to youth, (b) using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence, (c) illegal distribution or sale, (d) producing cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits, (e) taking cannabis across Canada's borders, and (f) possession over the legal limit.

Consequential amendments to federal impaired driving laws limit bloodstream THC content while driving to two nanograms per millilitre, with penalties ranging from $1,000 fines for a first offence, fines and imprisonments for up to 120 days for intermediate offences, and life imprisonment where a fatal accident occurs. Police now have additional powers to use roadside screening devices, including taking saliva or blood samples with reasonable suspicion.


The Act prohibits certain types of advertisements to promote cannabis sales, such as emotional branding and branding targeting youth.

BC Specifics

The Act will be subject to the BC cannabis regulatory scheme. This is because criminal law is a federal power and business and public health are provincial powers.* The Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (British Columbia), Cannabis Distribution Act (British Columbia), and cannabis-related amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act (British Columbia) are all in force, but the province is still working out the kinks of its public-monopoly distribution network, and both public and private retail locations, which will be managed by BC's Liquor Distribution Branch. Only one legal retail store (a public retailer in Kamloops) will be open for business in BC today.

Below are some specific features of the BC regulatory scheme that will take effect upon today's legalization.


Persons may possess up to 1,000 grams of dried cannabis on private property in BC.

Private and Public Consumption

Consumption will be legal on private property, subject to lawful restrictions by strata and landlords, and will generally be permitted in public places where smoking is permitted. Smoking cannabis is prohibited in a variety of locations including indoor public places, near doorways, bus shelters, public patios, school property, municipal and provincial parks (except in designated areas), on boats, and in vehicles.

Medicinal Use

The Act will not affect eliminate existing permitted use for medical purposes in BC. Medicinal use of cannabis is permitted on school property, public transportation, and on boats.

*Technically, public health is a concurrent power, but we'll spare you a detailed federalism nerd-out.

What the Changes Mean for BC Businesses

The Act's coming into force is a bigger deal for consumers than for BC bud retail hopefuls. BC has yet to provide framework for private retail sales of non-medicinal cannabis, but is accepting applications for private non-medical cannabis retail store licenses.

What we do know:

  • Illegal retailers are prohibited from advertising themselves as licensed retailers, and prohibit anyone from advertising a place as a location to consume cannabis or go to after consuming cannabis.
  • Non-medicinal cannabis will not be sold in the same retail store as alcohol or other substances.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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