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Leafly’s guide to cannabis legalization in Canada

Canada made history on October 17, 2018, when it legalized adult-use cannabis on a federal level. This made Canada the first G7 nation to accomplish legalization, though the United States has, and continues to, make progress toward federal legalization.

The Cannabis Act is the legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. Under the Cannabis Act, and 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

Canada’s journey from prohibition to legalization took nearly 100 years: Cannabis was illegal from 1923 to 2018. Most recently, Health Canada has begun its review of the Cannabis Act which could lead to the progression, or regression, of current legal liberties.

Stakeholders are lobbying for lower taxes, increased THC limits on edibles, and renewed efforts on equity, pardons, Indigenous inclusion, and improved medical cannabis access.

Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana as it’s known internationally, has been legal in Canada since 2001. Adult use, or recreational, dried cannabis flower and oils became legal in 2018 nationwide.

One year later, Health Canada allowed for more product innovation; edibles, beverages, concentrates, topicals, and vapes. Often called “legalization 2.0” the cannabis market grew substantially in 2019, though dried flower remains the most purchased cannabis product format.

How to find medical and recreational cannabis

What counts as 1 gram of cannabis?

  • 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

Don’t worry, there is no need to become a mathematician in order to know the equivalency limits. All packaging is required by Health Canada to have the dried cannabis equivalent right on the label.

THC potency limits by product category

FormatTHC
Edibles10 mg
Extracts (inhalation)1000 mg
Extracts (ingestion)10 mg per unit, 1000 mg per package
Topicals1000 mg per package
There are no specified limits for CBD in these product formats.

An overview of marijuana laws by province

The Cannabis Act is a piece of federal legislation that governs marijuana legalization in Canada, however, it does give provinces and territories the ability to set certain restrictions within their regions.

As a result, cannabis laws and restrictions vary by province or territory and can regionally influence the age of the majority, the release of certain products like vapes and edibles, and whether a person can grow cannabis at home.

For example, Quebec only allows edibles that they deem to be healthy and, along with Manitoba, has denied citizens the ability to grow cannabis at home. It is unclear if provincial or federal legislation reigns supreme, the issue was recently heard in the Supreme Court

Here is a province-by-province run down on legalization laws across Canada:

Age of MajorityPossession Limit*Grow at home?Private or
Government Retail
British Columbia19+30 gramsYesHybrid
Alberta18+30 gramsYesHybrid
Saskatchewan19+30 gramsYesPrivate
Manitoba19+30 gramsNoPrivate
Ontario19+30 gramsYesHybrid
Quebec21+30 gramsNoGovernment
Newfoundland19+30 gramsYesGovernment
New Brunswick19+30 gramsYesGovernment
Nova Scotia 19+30 gramsYesGovernment
Newfoundland & Labrador19+30 gramsYesHybrid
Prince Edward Island19+30 gramsYesGovernment
Yukon Territory19+30 gramsYesHybrid
Northwest Territories19+30 gramsYesGovernment
Nunavut19+30 gramsYesGovernment
*medical patients have increased limits based on their authorization details.

Post-legalization advocacy

Cannabis legalization did not repair the effects of prohibition, especially for vulnerable and marginalized communities that were disproportionately subjected to law enforcement.

There are an estimated 500 000 Canadians who have criminal records for simple possession and other cannabis convictions that no longer exist post-legalization. Advocating for justice reform and an equitable industry strengthens communities and the legal cannabis industry itself.

It’s important that Canadians who enjoy legal weed and the professionals making money in the cannabis industry don’t lose sight that the work isn’t done yet.

Advocacy is just as important now as it was pre-legalization. In addition to supporting pardons and reparations for Indigenous, Black, and Asian communities, we also need to give voice to medical patients whose access to an independent market may be at risk.