The Legal Use of Cannabis in Canada
When did cannabis become legal in Canada?
Cannabis was legalized in Canada with the passage of the Cannabis Act on October 17, 2018. It puts in place a new framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada.
What is the law that governs legal cannabis use in Canada?
The legalization and regulation of cannabis is governed by the Cannabis Act. Under this new law, adults who are 18 years or older – depending on the province or territory – can:
- Possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, in dried or in non-dried form, in public;
- Share up to 30 grams of cannabis with other adults;
- Purchase cannabis products from a provincial or territorial retailer;
- Grow up to 4 plants per residence (not per person) for personal use from licensed seeds or seedlings; and
- Make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home if organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.
The current regime for medical cannabis will continue to allow access to cannabis for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider.
Cannabis edible products and concentrates, meanwhile, will be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act comes into force.
Possession, production, distribution, and sale outside of what the law allows remain illegal and subject to criminal penalties, ranging from ticketing up to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
The Cannabis Act also establishes serious criminal penalties for those who sell or provide cannabis to youth and creates a new offence and strict penalties for those who use youth to commit a cannabis offence.
As well, the Act prohibits:
- Products that are appealing to youth;
- Packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that makes it appealing to youth;
- Selling cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines; and
- Promoting cannabis that could entice young people to use cannabis, except in narrow circumstances where it will not be seen by a young person.
Bear in mind that each province and territory has its own rules for cannabis, including:
- Legal minimum age;
- Where adults can buy cannabis;
- Where adults can use it; and
- How much adults can possess.
You must respect the laws of the province, territory, or Indigenous community you are in, whether you are a visitor or live there. Municipalities may also pass bylaws to regulate the use of cannabis locally. Review your provincial and territorial guidelines. Also check your municipality's website for local information.
Cannabis in the provinces and territories
The Cannabis Act came into force on October 17, 2018. Provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions.
They set rules around:
- How cannabis can be sold;
- Where stores may be located; and
- How stores must be operated.
Provinces and territories also have the flexibility to set added restrictions, including:
- Lowering possession limits;
- Increasing the minimum age for legal purchase or use;
- Restricting where cannabis may be used in public; and
- Setting added requirements on personal cultivation.
Each province and territory has its own excise stamp for legal cannabis products. You are responsible for knowing what will be legal in the province or territory where you live or visit. For a brief outline of the different laws and regulations in each province, click here.
Why has cannabis been legalized?
With the passage of the Cannabis Act, the Government of Canada has legalized the production, sale, and use of cannabis across the country, with the stated goals of protecting public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis, keeping profits out of the pockets of criminals and organized crime and keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth.
How do I know if the cannabis I have purchased is legal to use?
Legal cannabis has an excise stamp that appears in different colours for each province and territory on product labels. If you use cannabis, learn how use it responsibly. Know the health effects. Like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis has risks, especially for youth and young adults.