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Cannabis legalization in Canada – What you need to know for Oct 17

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On October 17, 2018, Canada will become just the second country in the world to legalize cannabis. (The other country is Uruguay – and more countries, like South Africa, are moving to legalize possession and consumption.) Medical cannabishas been legal in Canada since 2001, and it has benefitted thousands of ordinary Canadians dealing with pain and other medical issues. But legalization of recreational use will be a significant leap forward in terms of how people access and consume cannabis, and how it is perceived in our society.

Legalization will help bring marijuana out of the illicit market and into the mainstream, resulting in safer, more accurately dosed products, and reducing the stigma associated with its use. It will also be an economic boon: by some estimates, the market in Canada could be worth more than $22 billion.

While most Canadians are aware that cannabis legalization is on the horizon, not everyone knows the details of what the law actually says, or how the regulations around possession, distribution, and consumption will differ by province and territory, and even by municipality.

This article provides an overview of federal cannabis laws in Canada. Stay tuned, as we’ll be posting more articles in the future that will dive deeper into each of these topics and many more.

What the law says

The Cannabis Act, which comes into force on October 17, 2018, provides the following federal regulations.

NOTE: Provinces and territories are free to set their own regulations around legal age, possession, consumption, and retail/purchasing. Municipalities, too, can set and enforce their own bylaws. As a result, the rules in most provinces and regions will differ from the federal guidelines in important ways.

According to the federal regulations, Canadians of legal age will be able to:

POSSESS, in public, up to 30 grams of legal cannabis (dried or equivalent)

BUY dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a licensed retailer, in store and online (see “Selling and Purchasing” below)

SHARE up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults

GROW, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use

MAKE cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home (as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products)

Provincial and regional regulations

Depending on your province, you might see cannabis sold alongside alcohol. In others, like Newfoundland and Labrador, cannabis cannot be sold in an area with shared access to a pharmacy, or where there’s an adjacent lounge where alcohol is served. In Nova Scotia, co-location is permitted but alcohol and cannabis must be in separate areas. The Northwest Territories will distribute cannabis through liquor stores, but will operate a government-run online sale system. However, its online sales will only serve areas where there are no liquor stores.

Most provinces also have restrictions around how close cannabis retailers can be to schools, parks, daycares and more. In reality, not every community will have a storefront where you can buy cannabis, because in some provinces, municipalities can opt out of allowing private retailers to sell cannabis.

Selling and purchasing

In provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals will be able to purchase cannabis online from federally licensed producers. Depending on the province, retailers may be either privately owned retailers, or government-run stores (similar to Liquor Control Boards like the LCBO), or a hybrid system. Private and public retailers alike sell products from licensed producers (LPs), whose production is regulated by the federal government.

What about edibles and concentrates?

Edible cannabis products and cannabis concentrates are expected to be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act comes into force on October 17, 2018.

Stay tuned for more articles on legalization in the coming weeks.

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