Is Marijuana Legal In Canada? 🇨🇦 Canada's Cannabis Laws

Is Marijuana Legal In Canada? 🇨🇦 Canada's Cannabis Laws

Is marijuana legal in Canada?

I remember the first time I smoked weed. I don’t remember it like it was yesterday… shit I don’t really remember yesterday. What was I saying? Right, weed smoking. I first smoked weed in 1996 and it was anything but legal. I remember being paranoid, not from the weed, but that I was going to get addicted. Oh my. Any who, flashforward 20+ years. I still have my hair, so that hasn’t changed. But cannabis is absolutely, 100% legal to own and consume in Canada. Mostly.

marijuana leaf on Canadian flag with joints and cannabis on table

The Cannabis Act brought forward by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada in October of 2018 legalized Canada at the national level for any adults over 19, except in Alberta where it’s over 18 and Quebec where it’s 21.

Legalization history

Canada is a fairly progressive country, and the populace is generally in favour of cannabis consumption. So progressive, in fact, that medical marijuana was first legalized in 2001 in statute that existed almost unchanged until it was rewritten in 2016 in preparation for The Cannabis Act. Trudeau’s Liberals campaigned hard around legalization and rode it to a come from behind victory in the 2015 national election. It took roughly three years from election victory to the passage of The Cannabis Act, start to finish.

As, for some reason, Canada still exists under a Constitutional Monarchy, no bill becomes law until it is signed by the representative of the Royal Family, at the time Queen Elizabeth 2, the governor-general. This is merely ceremonial, and I won’t bore you with the ins and out of Canadian constitutional law, but after being rubber stamped, the Cannabis Act removed marijuana from the controlled substances list while also bolstering laws around impaired driving and selling to minors.

Regulation authority 

Are there limitations to this legalization? Of course, and they can be upheld in a myriad of ways ranging from warnings or tickets for minor offences like smoking in a restricted area or carrying slightly over the legal limit, to more serious punishments including jail time for those weighty offenses like transporting across a border with a child and a loaded firearm. Just don’t be an idiot and you should be fine; it’s almost a hybrid between alcohol and tobacco laws.

As you could expect, the government took advantage of legalization to pass other laws around cannabis use and possession, in order to placate moderates and conservatives who supported legalization, including strict punishment for those found providing cannabis for minors and for minor’s possession. On top of that, intoxicated driving laws surrounding THC are more rigidly defined and resemble drinking and driving penalties including escalation depending on severity.

legal Canadian cannabis container with marijuana on white background

Long story short, we now have statute on the legal amount of THC one is allowed to have in their system before they can be penalized, and there is now the technology in place to make such measurements. Like alcohol, the penalties escalate depending on how inebriated you are and can even include life in prison if you cause a fatal accident.

As it is with alcohol, and as it should be unless medically necessary, it is illegal to work while high. Being caught doing so could result in a rescinding of worker’s compensation rights if an accident were to occur.

Canada has two three levels of government, federal, provincial, and municipal, and the distinct regions are allowed to modify the majority of the laws to fit the needs of their particular constituents.

Where is it safe to purchase weed in Canada?

Legally, a retail store operating with the intention of selling cannabis products needs a license from the government of Canada to sell including the display of a seal stipulating said license. There are private stores, government operated stores and even a mix of both in one location. The prices can be high, but the product is consistent, and safety is paramount and treated with the same brevity that it is with food products. 

In order to prepare the market and establish some expectations around the retail offering of cannabis products, the government got a little lax and allowed a number of licences to be assigned to both growers and vendors. Years later, this has resulted in an extraordinarily healthy grey market where one can easily find and purchase a litany of marijuana products for same day delivery through an eTransfer. Like, in no way is it legal, but just google “weed delivery (where you live)” and chances are, you’ll find cheaper, better product than you’ll find a licensed retailer.

Where is it safe to consume cannabis?

As mentioned previously, the laws around public use of weed are a mix between tobacco and alcohol; you can consume weed anywhere it’s legal to smoke cigarettes, unless otherwise stipulated, but you also can be penalized for being super stoned in public. Most provinces have also set up boundaries around how close you can enjoy your weed around school and playgrounds, and we’re cool with that until or unless it gets to the point where the only place you can hit it is at home and inside. 

Sadly, for renters, landlords in many provinces will be able to ban the usage of pot in their dwelling, as they would with cigarettes. Chances are that most will also limit your ability to grow, but if by chance you are a medical marijuana user, there is the possibility that you can get special permits to allow you to both grow and consume at home.

Possessing cannabis as an adult

You are allowed to carry up to 30 grams of dried weed on you, or its equivalent in extracts; that’s over an ounce. Hey if you need to carry more than an ounce on you in public, do you, but there is the potential for penalization and worst of all, repossession. Like with everything else related to The Cannabis Act, provinces are able to modify their own boundaries as desired including the age of possession, though it can’t be lowered under 18.

In an attempt to create a comparative scale for effects vs amount, one gram of dried weed is comparable to five grams of uncured flower, 15 grams of edibles, 70 grams of distillate, a quarter gram of concentrate or one seed. I would love to know how high the guy was who created this Pepe Silvia of ratios. Regardless, penalties for over possession can get as steep as five years in the clink.

Medical use

Canada has been cool with legalized marijuana use for medicinally needy patients since 2001. Currently, a medical marijuana licence holder can possess up to 150g of dried weed at a time, which is roughly the equivalent of 5g a day for a month. The patient also has the option of holding the equivalent in extracts or edibles as well. 

Is home cultivation allowed in Canada?

Not unlike the USA, Canada has some… interesting regional peculiarities. For example, while 90% of the country allows any homeowner to grow up to 4 plants measuring no greater than 3 feet tall, the whackos in Quebec and Manitoba don’t allow you to grow at home at all. While there are regional differences, one thing shared by all provinces is that you are not able to have a flowering plant in public which can make outdoor grows problematic.

large scale legal marijuana grow operation in Canadian warehouse

Medical marijuana in Canada

While it has become less likely prescribed since legalization due to the easy access, prescription marijuana is still available for those in need. There are certain additional liberties that medical patients have, for example they can hold more cannabis at a time, but their medical need must be diagnosed by a legitimate healthcare practitioner, and they must be over 18 and not currently under conviction of a cannabis related crime

Qualifying conditions

Typically, you’ll see two different types of patients prescribed weed to consume medicinally: those who are granted clemency to provide them with comfort for end-of-life care and those who are dealing with pain related to one of several possible ailments. Health Canada has listed a bunch of the possibilities that one could be diagnosed for, and they include but are not limited to:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Back & Neck Problems
  • Brain Injury
  • Cancer
  • Chronic nausea
  • Chronic pain
  • Colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Hepatitis C
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Kidney failure, including dialysis treatments
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe arthritis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disorders
  • Vehicular crash-related injuries

Application process

If a Canadian citizen with a personal health card is interested in applying for a medical licence to grow or hold larger amounts of cannabis than those available to the standard population, all applicable information is available on Health Canada’s website.


Thankfully, there is a concession under the medical marijuana laws that allows authorized caregivers to keep cannabis flower and concentrate on hand for their patient’s use as well, and it’s a similar process to go through as one would if they were applying for their own medical use. 


The stigma around being a “stoner” still exists, but even the older generation are using CBD products daily now for help with old people stuff like sore joints.  Hehe, joints. Hopefully we’ll see the laws around home growing level out alongside the ability to brew substantial quantities of alcohol at home, which is arguably literal poison. Guess we’ll find out the next time a political party wants to make some quick hay!

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