Canada's 10 provinces and territories are rushing to draw up and vote on legislation to cement their strategies for legalizing non-medical marijuana. The federal government set a July 1, 2018 deadline for cannabis to be available by retail to all adults.
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are the latest provinces to reveal their plans, while the Ontario government just voted in favour of the proposed strategy to create a monopoly on recreational marijuana sales.
Medical marijuana will still be available to those with qualifying conditions, through the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) framework. All you need is a doctor who will oversee your treatment and registration with a Health Canada licensed producer (LP). As always, medical marijuana is delivered to the patient through Canada Post and doesn’t require visiting a dispensary.
Non-Medical Marijuana Laws by Province
For the rest of Canada, we now have a rough idea of where, how and to whom recreational cannabis will sell. We also know which regions will ban home cultivation despite it being legal under the federal law. It appears that wholesale cannabis and online sales will be mainly government-controlled, while one of three retail models will be employed for over-the-counter sales: private, public or a hybrid of the two.
Here’s an update on provincial and territorial plans to date, starting with British Columbia and moving counterclockwise around the country.
British Columbia, the province with the reputation for being the most pro-cannabis, set the minimum age to purchase marijuana at 19. The province will allow retail sales through public and private stores. The government will supply retailers through the same wholesale distribution system used for alcohol, the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.
In Alberta, the legal minimum age to purchase marijuana will be 19. While the province will control the online sale of cannabis, over-the-counter sales are open to private operators. Those stores will sell only marijuana and related items, and will be physically separate from any place selling alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will act as the central wholesaler.
Saskatchewan held a public consultation and is so far hinting at a private model. The province will confirm this once review of the plan comes to completion.
Manitoba plans to set its legal age to purchase cannabis at 19, one year older than the legal age to purchase alcohol. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is in charge of the wholesale product, though retail sales will take place in privately owned stores. The government also plans to ban growing non-medical cannabis in homes.
Ontario set the legal minimum age to buy and consume cannabis at 19. It intends to sell cannabis at 40 stores for now, and will increase to 150 by 2020. The marijuana stores will be run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
Quebec has drawn up a bill to sell marijuana to those 18 or older through the provincially run liquor board, the Société des alcools du Québec. The province is planning to have 15 Société Québécois du Cannabis (SQC) stores open by July 1, with additional products available online. It won’t be legal to cultivate cannabis for personal or commercial use at home unless authorized.
New Brunswick will sell cannabis to anyone over 19 from establishments run by a subsidiary of the province’s liquor commission. New Brunswick is the first province to talk about the retail experience of buying legal marijuana from government-run shops. So far, their stores are planned to look like an upscale showroom with black ceilings, grey walls and product displayed in brightly lit glass cases. "Think along the lines of a jewellery store. Very chic, very modern, very clean-cut lines," New Brunswick Liquor Corp. Spokesman Mark Barbour told Canadian media.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island set 19 as the minimum legal age to buy cannabis. It plans to sell marijuana at standalone outlets run by its liquor commission, as well as online.
Nova Scotia said marijuana would be sold to anyone 19 and over. Cannabis and related products will be available in establishments alongside alcohol in its provincial liquor commission stores and through online sales.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador will allow adults 19 and over to buy marijuana from private stores. The Crown-owned liquor corporation will buy cannabis wholesale and distribute to individual retailers.
Nunavut completed initial stakeholder consultations through the summer of 2017. They also held a public survey to help guide the development of policy and legislation. Territorial elections have delayed the province’s legislation, but it still plans on meeting the federal government’s July 1 deadline.
The Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories has been holding discussions with residents that include community meetings and an online survey. The province’s plans, released in late November, state that the minimum purchase and consumption age will be 19. It will also allow eligible adults to grow four plants per household. Marijuana will be sold and distributed by the N.W.T Liquor Commission and will be available to consumers through stores and postal delivery.
Yukon is proposing 19 as the minimum age for the use of recreational marijuana with the intention to initially limit distribution and sales to government outlets. The framework stipulates that additional time is needed to develop regulations, including a licensing system for future private retail. The government is giving the public until Dec. 20 to comment on the proposed framework.
If You Need Medical Marijuana, Stay in the ACMPR System
For those seeking medicinal marijuana, using the ACMPR system may still be the best option. It ensures a steady supply of cannabis from LPs that have been operating in the medical marijuana space for some time. The product is typically easy to order and arrives through Canada Post, making it accessible to municipalities who won't see a legal recreational storefront open in their area and to people who live in more isolated areas.
In provinces like Manitoba and Quebec, being a medical marijuana patient will be necessary for those who desire to cultivate a supply at home. But even more importantly, it comes with the insurance of having a trusted and knowledgeable doctor overseeing the treatment process.
The minimum age to purchase at recreational shops also applies to possession, use and home growing, meaning that those under the age of 19 who qualify for medical marijuana can’t benefit from this system.
For them, and possibly for you, it's a better choice to enter, or remain in, the ACMPR system.
Photo credit: futureatlas.com