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Cannabis legalization: What is your province or territory doing? A guide

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.

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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.

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 will allow under its proposed legislation:

  • When legalization begins: 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 will be able to increase the minimum age, lower the personal possession limit, limit the amount of plants grown inside the home and restrict where adults consume cannabis and its related products. Manitoba, for instance, plans to bar home growing because it fears that cannabis could feed the black market instead.

Watch: How cannabis came to be a banned substance in Canada is still unclear. Here’s a condensed history of pot prohibition.


Alberta will turn to the private sector to sell recreational cannabis provincially. Private outlets and their brick-and-mortar stores will sell to consumers but the province will maintain control over online sales. 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

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  • 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
  • Drug-impaired driving will not be allowed and will be penalized similarly to how driving under the influence of alcohol is currently enforced
  • The province is planning on limiting how many licenses each organization can hold to prevent any one company from dominating the market.
  • Around 250 private brick and mortar stores will be setup within the first year of legalization, the province estimates

British Columbia

Canada’s westernmost province is set to create a marketplace where both public and private retailers will sell to residents. The only wholesaler of recreational marijuana in British Columbia will be the provincial government through the province’s liquor corporation. It is still unclear whether online sales will be done through public or private sellers or a mix, mirroring in-person sales. The government says that revenues from cannabis sales will be directed towards enforcing new marijuana-related legislation and educating youth.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Marijuana and alcohol will not be allowed to be sold in the same store
  • Municipalities will be able to determine if cannabis is sold within their jurisdiction
  • The province’s more than 100 currently illegal dispensaries have the opportunity to apply for a retailing licence
  • 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


Private retailers will exclusively sell marijuana 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. Manitoba is the only province so far to have an age limit for marijuana that is different than the age limit for alcohol.

Age limit: 19

Other details

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  • 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. A maximum of 20 stores will be established and managed by Cannabis Management Corp, a Crown corporation. Staff will be trained similar to how sommeliers are and a home-delivery service will be established. Marijuana will be supplied by Zenabis, Organigram and Canopy Growth Corp.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Anyone under the legal age will be prohibited from entering a store
  • 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 inlocked enclosures at least 1.52m high
  • Consumption is disallowed in vehicles
  • Use of cannabis products is primary limited to private dwellings 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Legal recreational marijuana will be sold through private retailers but Newfoundland and Labrador’s liquor corporation will be responsible for distribution. The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation will also set prices and be the sole online seller initially, though private retailers may be able to sell via the internet later on. More than 40 stores are expected.

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 importation and sale. Residents can buy products through liquor stores or via a mail-order service that will be established by the Liquor Commission.

Age limit: 19

Educators and public-health officials face a daunting challenge as marijuana becomes legal: how to get through to teens. Mike Hager reports

Other details

  • Smoking in public places will be limited to reduce effects of second-hand smoke. Cannabis use in private property is permitted with landlord permission
  • Residents can purchase cannabis products and alcohol in the same location
  • Communities can choose to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction after holding a plebiscite
  • Residents will not be able to use cannabis products in a vehicle or open a container of cannabis in a vehicle

Nova Scotia

Alcohol and legal recreational marijuana will be sold alongside each other in provincial liquor stories in Nova Scotia once the latter is legalized in 2018. Online sales will also be controlled by the government’s liquor corporation. When cannabis is legalized it will only be available at nine outlets, with four in the Halifax area. Nova Scotia’s South Shore and Annapolis Valley will not have any legal marijuana retailers.

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 disallowed 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 through the internet once it is legalized later this year 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. The territory says it is still soliciting feedback from residents. Legislators in the territory, which has a unique consensus-style government and meets infrequently, say they are behind on preparation.

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 at a later time


Canada’s largest province was also the first to introduce details on how it will sell cannabis. Ontario residents will be able to purchase marijuana at government-run stores and online. Both in-person and purchases via the internet will be done through a subsidiary of the LCBO. To begin with, 40 stores will be opened in Ontario but the provincial government plans to increase the number of outlets to 80 by Canada Day in 2019 and 150 by 2020. The first batch of stores will be spread across 14 cities in the province.

As the 2018 date for legalization looms, the man in charge of that effort is preparing for a year in which his organization will be responsible for unveiling 40 cannabis stores by Canada Day, designing a new retail model for the substance, from scratch.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • For those under the legal age, five grams is the maximum amount of possession before penalties will be enforced
  • People convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis may face up to $250,000 in fines and/or two years of jail time less a day
  • Drug-impaired driving will see stiffer penalties than currently exist and young, commercial and noviceo zero tolerance.
  • Consumption will be prohibited in public, at workplaces and inside vehicles.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island will be selling legal recreational marijuana through stores operated by its provincial liquor commission, though alcohol will not be sold in the standalone cannabis outlets. Residents will be able to order through a government-operated online retailer that will deliver using Canada Post.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Cannabis will be available at four government-run stores in the province 
  • Outside of private dwellings, public consumption will be allowed in “certain designated spaces”


Legal recreational marijuana will be sold in Quebec through a new government agency, the Société québécoise du cannabis while the distributor will the the province’s liquor agency. Twenty stores will be ready province-wide by the time legalization occurs and the number is expected to increase to a maximum of 150 in two years. So far, the government has not detailed how prices will be determined.

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 legal cannabis to residents in Saskatchewan. The government will retain oversight responsibilities and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority says it will issue 51 permits in 32 municipalities and First Nations communities.

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Permits will only be issued for places with more than 2,500 people
  • Municipalities and First Nations have the ability to opt out of having cannabis sold within their jurisdiction
  • Use of marijuana products will be disallowed in public places, including schools and daycares
  • Possession of any amount by a minor is disallowed
  • Minors will not be allowed within retail locations


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

Age limit: 19

Other details

  • Consumption will be prohibited outside of private residences and their adjoining properties
  • Residents who are transporting cannabis in a vehicle mut store it in a closed package that is not within the reach of others in the vehicle.
  • Any plants that are grown must not be accessible to minors
Watch: Ahead of marijuana legalization, traditional crops are being traded in for cannabis plants at Canadian greenhouses. The COO of legal pot producer Newstrike says crop turnover in the greenhouse industry is common. The Canadian Press

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 will also table 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. At an Assembly of First Nations conference in early December, chiefs expressed a wide range of views on the Liberal government’s plan to legalize marijuana, with some saying that they don’t have enough funding or time to ready themselves for the change. But there was widespread agreement on allowing First Nations to determine how marijuana should be sold on reserves, including setting age limits.

The finance ministers also reached an agreement on pricing during their December meeting, stating that their goal is to sell marijuana for around $10 a gram. Statistics Canada is also gathering information on how much marijuana should cost and has turned to digital crowdsourcing in an effort to understand what the black market price is.

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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