Canada’s Cannabis Act goes into effect tomorrow, October 17, and the country is already buzzing with anticipation. But Canada’s federal legalization of cannabis will introduce many changes, some big and some small, to the ways Canadians get their weed. With such a gigantic public policy shift about to take place, it’s important to know what’s in store. So here’s what to expect after weed becomes legal across Canada tomorrow.
Online Orders and Shipping Cannabis
Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of Canada’s legal cannabis infrastructure is the lack of licensed storefronts. Tomorrow, most provinces will only have a handful of stores ready for customers to walk in and purchase weed. And that means that for the first couple of months, most Canadians will be making online cannabis orders and waiting for their products in the mail.
Online purchases will be ready as soon as the clock strikes midnight on October 17. Unlike popular delivery services in places like California, however, Canada’s online retail system will be entirely government-run. And at first, the selection is going to be limited to just dry flower and a few options for oils and seeds. But the online experience will attempt to mimic the in-store shopping experience. Users will log on, answer a few questions that help steer them toward an ideal product and make a purchase.
For folks who know their way around buds, who know what sativas, indicas and hybrids are, online ordering shouldn’t be too complicated. For newcomers or novice weed buyers, however, making a choice could get overwhelming. That’s why the Canadian government is working on making the online portal user-friendly and educational.
Online sales will be available in every province. Which means it will be up against the robust network of illicit “pharmacies” operating across Canada. And officials are interested to see what the first round of orders will reveal about consumer preferences. The industry is looking forward to accessing that data as well. But for the most secure, safe and of course legal purchase, customers will want to place online orders or walk into a licensed retail store.
Flying with Weed
On October 17, a huge chunk of the North American landmass will become legal-weed territory. Not to mention the fact that nearly every state on the U.S.—Canada border has some form of legal cannabis. At the Northwest and Northeast corners, both Washington and Maine have legalized cannabis for adult use. And every state in between, with the exception of Idaho, has legal medical cannabis.
So, naturally, Canadians and those in the U.S. might be wondering about the possibility of flying or traveling with cannabis. Here’s what Canada’s law says about cannabis and the border.
Even though weed will be legal, it is absolutely illegal to cross any of Canada’s national borders with cannabis. Whether entering or leaving Canada, this prohibition applies. And it applies even if you are an authorized medical cannabis patient. It doesn’t matter how much or how little cannabis you have with you, or if you’re traveling to or from an area with legal or decriminalized cannabis. And if you do happen to cross Canada’s borders with cannabis, you have to declare it to the Canada Border Services Agency.
But what about traveling with cannabis within Canada? Whether or not crossing a provincial border with cannabis is okay depends on the specific laws of the province or territory. Differences between provinces involve varying age restrictions, possession limits and public use. But as long as you’re following the rules of whichever province you’re traveling to, you can fly with weed anywhere in Canada.
Public Consumption Lounges
Public cannabis consumption has been one of the most contentious issues provincial authorities have debated in the lead up to October 17. Efforts to restrict the public consumption of cannabis have led to concerns that many will be left without a legal place to smoke weed. At the same time, efforts to provide sanctioned public consumption areas have met with vocal and sometimes insistent criticism.
Yet as with other statutes regarding cannabis, public consumption rules are up to each individual province. Some, like Yukon and Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, have restricted cannabis use to private residences only. Others, like Quebec, Alberta and Ontario, will permit public consumption wherever it’s okay to smoke tobacco, except for in cars and near children.
One solution that might satisfy everyone are public consumption lounges. Places similar to Amsterdam’s famed “coffee shops” where customers can consume cannabis socially outside of their homes, but not fully in public. Many provinces are preparing to consider regulations that would permit public consumption lounges after October 17. Others are waiting until Canada has finished setting rules for edibles and concentrates—something it should have done by Oct. 2019—until they consider lounges.
Cannabis on Campus
Similar to the issue of public consumption, the question of whether or not to permit cannabis on college campuses has vexed administrators and law enforcement. But given the age restrictions for cannabis in Canada, most college students will be able to buy, use and consume cannabis legally, just as they can with alcohol or tobacco. And that has raised concerns about what cannabis will look like on campus.
Some universities are taking a permissive approach. The University of Alberta, for example, is okaying cannabis consumption on campus. The decision came after an extensive review of the impact of legal weed by a university working group. As part of 19 policy recommendations, the University of Alberta will allow people on campus to consume cannabis in specially-designated areas. Interestingly, the decision to make Alberta a 420-friendly campus goes against the provincial ban on consuming cannabis on any school property.
Other university’s however, are taking a stricter approach. Students at the University of Quebec, for example, will have to find a place to smoke off campus. Any kind of cannabis consumption is prohibited on university grounds.
Ultimately, it appears universities will have the latitude to establish their own policies regarding cannabis on campus. But most are taking the default provincial approach, which bans campus on any school property.
What Happens to Medical?
When October 17 hits, Canada’s medical cannabis program will continue as before, with little modification. All the privileges and rights enjoyed by authorized patients will still be available. And Health Canada, the national regulatory agency for medical cannabis, says it is committed to keeping retail and medical separate.
Under the new Cannabis Act, patients with the proper authorization can still purchase cannabis directly from a federally licensed producer. They’ll also still be able to grow a limited about of cannabis for their own medical use or to designate someone to produce it for them.
There will be some changes to the medical cannabis program, but only to improve patient access. The most important change is one allowing authorized patients to purchase cannabis not just from licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, but also from any provincial or territorial retail shop. In short, medical cannabis patients will also be able to purchase cannabis anywhere all other adults can. They just have to follow provincial rules if they do so.
Best of all, patients don’t need to do anything. Health Canada will automatically enroll them in the new program under the Cannabis Act. Patient registrations will also keep their existing expiration date.