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Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The clock is ticking. Legal recreational marijuana is expected to be a reality in Canada this year.

In a historic vote on June 19, the Senate passed the Cannabis Act, which ended a century-old prohibition of the drug. The Trudeau government, which set Oct. 17 as the implementation date, still needs to release regulations for the cannabis trade, and says that once legalization happens, it will explore ways to clear the criminal records of those currently convicted of simple possession. But in the end, it is the provinces and territories who will each set their own paths for who can grow cannabis at home, how much people can legally purchase and where it will be sold.

This guide will detail how cannabis legalization will play out where you live. We’ll continue to update it as more jurisdictions release details on how they plan on regulating recreational marijuana.

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Part of cannabis laws and regulations

What the federal government is doing

Both levels of government are working together to legalize recreational marijuana. Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, passed overwhelmingly in the House of Commons in November and, with some revisions, cleared the Senate on June 19. This is what the federal government has allowed:

  • When legalization can begin: Oct. 17
  • Age minimum: 18
  • Possession: Adults will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams and share up to 30 grams with other adults
  • Cultivation: Adults will be allowed to grow a maximum of four plants per dwelling
  • Taxes: The excise tax will be $1 a gram or 10 per cent, whichever is higher

Provinces were given the power to set higher minimum ages or lower personal possession limits, and to limit the amount of plants grown inside the home and the places where adults can consume cannabis products. Manitoba, for instance, plans to bar home growing because it fears that cannabis could feed the black market instead.


Alberta is turning to the private sector to sell recreational cannabis, though the province will maintain control over online sales through Alberta Cannabis. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will oversee distribution and enforcement while owner-operators will set their own prices and won’t be able to sell items other than cannabis and cannabis accessories.

Age limit: 18

Other details

  • Retailers will not be able to sell marijuana alongside alcohol, pharmaceuticals or tobacco
  • Marijuana use through smoking or vaping will be disallowed in spaces that often have children present, such as playgrounds. Municipalities will be able to set additional limits on where cannabis can be consumed
  • Drug-impaired driving will not be allowed and will be penalized similarly to how driving under the influence of alcohol is currently enforced

British Columbia

Canada’s westernmost province will have a mix of provincially run and licensed private stores. The government will be the only wholesaler, through its liquor distribution corporation and its Shopify-run online retailer, the B.C. Cannabis Stores.

Age limit: 19

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Other details

  • Marijuana and alcohol cannot be sold in the same store
  • Municipalities will be able to determine if cannabis is sold within their jurisdiction
  • Smoking cannabis in public places is primarily limited to where smoking cigarettes and vaping is legal, but consumption will be prohibited on school grounds and other areas frequented by children
  • Adults can grow up to four plants per dwelling but landlords can disallow cultivation and use by tenants. Plants cannot be visible to the public and they will not be allowed in daycares or assisted living homes


Cannabis sales will be exclusively private in the province, both in brick-and-mortar locations and via the internet. The provincial government will be the sole wholesaler and will be responsible for overseeing distribution. Retailers will determine sale price themselves.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Marijuana and alcohol will not be allowed to be sold in the same store
  • Municipalities can choose to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction after holding a plebiscite
  • Manitobans will not be allowed to grow plants in their homes
  • Cannabis can only be transported in the trunk of a vehicle or behind the last seat of vehicles that do not have separate trunks

New Brunswick

New Brunswick will sell to residents online and through a subsidiary of NB Liquor, the provincial liquor commission. The province’s 20 Cannabis NB stores will be managed by a Crown corporation. Staff will be trained similar to how sommeliers are and a home-delivery service will be established.

Age limit: 19

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Other details

  • If you store cannabis inside your home, you will need to maintain it in a locked container or room. Residents who grow outside will need to do so in locked enclosures at least 1.52 metres high
  • Consumption is not allowed in vehicles
  • Use of cannabis products is primarily limited to private dwellings 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Legal recreational cannabis will be sold through private retailers, but the provincial liquor corporation will be responsible for distribution. Online sales will be handled exclusively by a provincial store, though the province hasn’t ruled out eventually allowing some private retailers to sell online. The provincial store is also in charge of setting prices for retailers.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Consumption will be prohibited outside of private residences
  • Co-location will be prohibited where there is access to a pharmacy

Northwest Territories

Legal recreational cannabis in the Northwest Territories will be administered by the territory’s Liquor Commission, with the organization taking control of imports and sales. Residents can buy products through liquor stores or via a mail-order service that will be established by the Liquor Commission.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Smoking in public places will be prohibited wherever tobacco smoking is prohibited, as well as in crowded places and parks regularly used by children
  • Communities can choose to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction after holding a plebiscite
  • Initially, only fresh or dried cannabis will be sold; edibles won’t be available until their federal laws about how to sell and use them

Nova Scotia

Alcohol and legal recreational marijuana will be sold alongside each other in provincial liquor stores in Nova Scotia once the latter is legalized in 2018. Online sales will also be controlled by the government’s liquor corporation.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • For those under the legal age, five grams is the maximum amount of possession before penalties will be enforced
  • Cannabis use is not allowed in vehicles
  • Public use will be limited and restricted as per Nova Scotia’s Smoke-free Places Act


Residents of Nunavut will be able to purchase cannabis online, but no brick-and-mortar retailers will be established in 2018. The territorial liquor commission will be the distributor and a mix of private and public retail options will exist eventually.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Adults can grow up to four plants per dwelling but landlords can disallow cultivation and use by tenants
  • Smoking cannabis in public places is prohibited where smoking tobacco is prohibited and consumption will be disallowed on school grounds and other areas frequented by children
  • Regulation of edibles and other cannabis products will be determined later


Under premier Kathleen Wynne, Canada’s largest province was the first to introduce details on how it would sell cannabis – but the plan changed dramatically under her successor, Doug Ford, and now Ontarians may be the last in Canada to smoke up from store-bought weed. Originally, Ms. Wynne wanted sales to be handled through the LCBO, the provincially run liquor authority. But Mr. Ford instead decided to use private retailers, a decision announced less than three months before national legalization day. Starting Oct. 17, Ontarians will be able to buy online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, but bricks-and-mortar private stores won’t be opening until after a retail framework is set up by April 1, the province says.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Municipal governments have a one-time window to opt out of allowing cannabis stores
  • Drug-impaired driving will see stiffer penalties than currently exist, and there will be a zero-tolerance policy for young, novice or commercial drivers
  • Consumption will be prohibited in public, at workplaces and inside vehicles, and those who do can face fines of $1,000 on a first offence and $5,000 on subsequent offences

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island will be selling legal recreational marijuana through stores operated by its liquor commission, though alcohol will not be sold there. The stores are in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and the West Prince region. Residents will be able to order by mail through a government-operated online retailer.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Consumption is limited to private dwellings, though the government says it may eventually choose other designated locations for cannabis use
  • Edibles won’t be sold until the federal government sets out guidelines for them


Legal recreational marijuana will be sold in Quebec through a new government agency, the Société québécoise du cannabis, while the distributor will be the province’s liquor agency. Twenty stores will be ready provincewide by legalization day.

Age limit: 18

Other details

  • There will be a zero-tolerance policy for drug-impaired drivers
  • Quebeckers will not be allowed to grow plants in their homes
  • Marijuana and alcohol will not be sold in the same store
  • Individuals can have a maximum of 30 grams on them at a time but will be allowed to hold 150 grams at their residence
  • Smoking and vaping marijuana in public places is primarily limited to where smoking cigarettes is legal but consumption will be prohibited on school and university campuses


Private retailers will be in charge of selling cannabis in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority says it will issue 51 permits across the province.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Municipalities and First Nations can to opt out of having cannabis sold within their jurisdiction
  • Consumption in public places, including schools and daycares, is not allowed
  • Possession of any amount by a minor is disallowed


The Yukon will have at least one government-owned-and-operated retail location and will establish an online sales option. The territory will also let licensed private businesses enter the marketplace and sell to residents.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Consumption will be prohibited outside of private residences and their adjoining properties
  • Any plants that are grown must not be accessible to minors

How it’s being legalized

Although recreational cannabis use has been banned in Canada for nearly a century, using marijuana for medicinal reasons has been permitted since 2001. As public opinion on the subject has shifted, political parties have followed suit, with both the governing Liberals and the federal NDP campaigning on legalization during the 2015 election.

Each provincial and territorial legislature is also tabling its own legislation that works around the parameters established by the federal government and will detail key information such as the legal age of use and the distribution and sales model. First Nations are also demanding control over the distribution and sale of cannabis products in their communities.

Big business

In 2017, Canadians spent an estimated $5.7-billion on cannabis, according to Statistics Canada. Around five million Canadians reportedly purchased medical and non-medical marijuana last year and the average user spent about $1,200 on cannabis products. Needless to say, legalized recreational cannabis is set to be big business.

Ottawa estimates that it will receive $100-million in excise tax revenue in its first full year of cannabis sales, with the flow of cash increasing to $220-million by 2022-23. That would amount to nearly $9-billion in sales. The government says that medical-marijuana products will also be subject to the tax.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his provincial and territorial counterparts reached an agreement in December to split tax revenue generated from the sale of marijuana. The federal government will give 75 per cent of the tax revenue to the provinces and territories and keep 25 per cent, unless the total generated per year is greater than $400-million (the current estimate). In that case, Ottawa would cap its share of revenue at $100-million. The 75-25 split came after Mr. Morneau received criticism for suggesting a 50-50 distribution in June, 2017. Canadian municipalities have also pushed for a share of tax revenue.

Analysis and commentary

Campbell Clark: With cannabis milestone, Trudeau overcomes political inertia

André Picard: Canada can learn a lot from California as it prepares for marijuana legalization

Globe investigations

What’s in your weed? We tested dispensary marijuana to find out

How the Mob controls marijuana and why it is impossible to expel them

Mysterious symptoms and medical marijuana: Patients are looking for answers

Blowing smoke: Does Aurora Cannabis really know what it’s doing?

With reports from Globe staff and The Canadian Press

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