If you were planning a trip to Amsterdam in the near future, that’s so 2000-and-late.
Turn instead to our neighbor to the north, Canada. Now in its second year of legal recreational cannabis, Canada’s fast becoming a destination for green-minded travelers. But given that each of the 13 provinces and territories have their own set of rules — including where marijuana would be sold and consumed — knowing how to traverse Canada’s brand-new cannabis culture means doing a little homework.
Canada is the only country offering legal places to blaze (despite what you think you know, cannabis is pretty much illegal in the Netherlands). And while the Canadian cannabis industry got off to a rough start early on, business was booming: According to Stats Canada, as of July 2019 Canada’s cannabis sector contributed $8.26 billion to the country’s gross domestic product.
COVID-19 may have put further progress on hold, but cannabis is still alive and well in Canada. And future travelers who still want to have a stylish (and legal) experience once the pandemic is over can travel to Canada and do so with relative ease. Here’s everything you need to know on how best to navigate — and experience — Canada’s extensive cannabis culture.
How has COVID-19 affected cannabis in Canada?
The virus has left a huge impact on the industry as a whole, as Canadian public-health officials continue to change their guidelines on what lockdown procedures look like.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many provinces have tried to reexamine their regulations surrounding cannabis delivery. As of now, one thing that has been introduced is a click-and-collect ordering program: How it works is that you order online and pay, then pick-up in-store. Thankfully, a majority of Canada’s recreational cannabis stores have been ordered to stay open by their provincial governments during the coronavirus outbreak as they have been deemed essential businesses. While delivery programs are still not yet fully implemented, things could change in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Just this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians that due to the realities of COVID-19 and our social- distancing and self-isolation measures, some businesses and services may remain closed for another 12 to 18 months.
What this has meant for Canadians and businesses in the tourism sector, as well as the cannabis industry, on the whole, has been changing day-by-day. But if you’re planning on taking a cannabis-fueled vacation to Canada, temper your expectations for it happening any time soon.
What is legal as of October 17, 2018
Subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, adults who are 18 years of age or older are legally able 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 are 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
- make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products
As of October 17, 2019, cannabis edible products and concentrates are legal for sale.
Possession limits for cannabis products
The possession limits in the Cannabis Act are based on dried cannabis. Equivalents were developed for other cannabis products to identify what their possession limit would be.
One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:
- 5 grams of fresh cannabis
- 15 grams of edible product
- 70 grams of liquid product
- 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
- 1 cannabis plant seed
This means, for example, that an adult 18 years of age or older, can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis.
Cannabis for medical purposes
The current regime for medical cannabis will continue to allow access to cannabis for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider.
The Cannabis Act has several measures that help prevent youth from accessing cannabis. These include both age restrictions and restricting promotion of cannabis.
No person may sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18. There are 2 criminal offences related to providing cannabis to youth, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail:
- giving or selling cannabis to youth
- using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence
Restricting promotion and enticement
The Cannabis Act helps discourage youth cannabis use by prohibiting:
- 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
- promoting cannabis, except in narrow circumstances where young people could not see the promotion
Penalties for violating these prohibitions include a fine of up to $5 million or 3 years in jail.
Protecting public health
The Act protects public health through creating strict safety and quality regulations. In addition, public education efforts are currently underway to raise awareness about safety measures and any potential health risks.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for overseeing the cannabis regulation system.
The Federal government’s responsibilities are to set:
- strict requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis
- industry-wide rules and standards, including:
- types of cannabis products available for sale
- packaging and labelling requirements for products
- standardized serving sizes and potency
- prohibitions on the use of certain ingredients
- good production practices
- tracking requirements of cannabis from seed to sale to keep it out of the illegal market
- restrictions on promotional activities
Provinces and territories are responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. They are also able to add their own safety measures, such as:
- increasing the minimum age in their province or territory (but not lowering it)
- lowering the personal possession limit in their jurisdiction
- creating additional rules for growing cannabis at home, such as lowering the number of plants per residence
- restricting where adults can consume cannabis, such as in public or in vehicles
The Government of Canada has committed close to $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities. These are to inform Canadians, especially youth, of the health and safety risks of cannabis consumption.
Reducing criminal activity
Statistics Canada reports that in 2017, almost 48,000 cannabis-related drug offences were reported to police. The majority of these (80%) were possession offences. A criminal record resulting from a cannabis offence, even a minor possession charge, can have serious and lifelong implications for the person charged. In allowing the production and possession of legal cannabis for adults, the Act helps keep Canadians who consume cannabis out of the criminal justice system, reducing the burden on the courts.
Cannabis offences target those acting outside of the legal framework, such as organized crime. Penalties are set in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. Sanctions range from warnings and tickets for minor offences to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for more serious offences. Some offences specifically target people who make cannabis available to youth.
|Possession over the limit||tickets for small amountsup to 5 years less a day in jail|
|Illegal distribution or sale||tickets for small amountsup to 14 years in jail|
|Producing cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits||tickets for small amountsup to 14 years in jail|
|Producing with organic solvents||up to 14 years in jail|
|Taking cannabis across Canada’s borders||up to 14 years in jail|
|Giving or selling cannabis to a person under 18||up to 14 years in jail|
|Using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence||up to 14 years in jail|
Further penalties related to cannabis-impaired driving are also included in Canada’s impaired driving legislation, along with impairment rules for other drugs such as:
- psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
Please visit Cannabis in Canada for more information on cannabis:
- safety risks
- health effects
- licensed production