Is Weed Legal in Canada?

Is Weed Legal in Canada? What about Medicinal Marijuana? How about CBD? Find out in this article.

Known as the Great White North, and famous for things such as maple syrup, hockey, and bacon, Canada is the most educated country on earth and is the second-largest country by area. Canada is a popular destination for many tourists and residents alike, with beautiful scenery, lakes, and a lengthy ski season at Whistler.

Though in recent years, Canada has added another attraction to its list; cannabis.

In 2018, Canada made global history when it became the 2nd country in the world, and the first G7 nation, to federally legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. Since then, the rest of the world has kept its eye on the Great White North, who has acted as a torchbearer and guinea pig for the potential end of the War on Drugs.

Let's take a closer look at Canada's weed laws.

Is Weed Legal in Canada?

Yes, recreational weed is legal in Canada for personal consumption. The country legalized cannabis on the 17th of October in 2018 through the federal Cannabis Act which was passed by the House of Commons on the 27th of November in 2017.

At the time, Canada only allowed the consumption of a very limit range of cannabis form factors; in essence, you couldn't buy cannabis edibles, extracts or concentrates of any kind. The passage of Canada's Cannabis Act only allowed for people aged 18 or older to possess up to 30 grams of dried or "equivalent non-dried form" in public.

While Canada was indeed a torchbearer and groundbreaking in its legislative efforts surrounding cannabis, there were understandably some teething issues as a result. Many remarked on the lack of stores and dispensaries from which you could actually purchase cannabis, which was only worsened by a lack of available supply. This meant that in some cases, citizens had to travel in order to wait hours in line to get cannabis from a dispensary – if that store had any weed left at all.

Canada's lack of available stores persists even to this day, with places like Ontario still only having one dispensary per 590,000 people. Meanwhile, back in 2018, Colorado had 14.1 dispensaries per 100,000 residents.

Additionally, due to the excessive regulations around cannabis in Canada, combined with a lack of available supply, prices for cannabis can be higher than the black market. CNBC reports that "in the fourth quarter of 2019, legally sourced cannabis averaged $7.84 per gram while illegally sourced cannabis cost $4.36 per gram, according to StatsCanada."

This combination of pitfalls and problems for Canada's legal cannabis market has led to a continuation of the country's black market, which many had hoped would shrink in size upon legalization of the plant.

Though it isn't all doom and gloom for the Great White North on the cannabis front, as precisely one year after the country's initial legalization, Canada legalized the extended array of cannabis form factors. This was termed "Legalization 2.0" and would see the emergence of cannabis edibles, extracts and concentrates, which some analysts predict will bring in a wider demographic of consumers. Following this second wave of legalization which occurred on the 17th of October 2019, many Canadians are starting to see this wider spread of form factors finally starting to hit shelves. This includes the advent of home grow and the ability for people to purchase their own seeds (an example would be Happy Seed Bank) and be able to grow cannabis for both medicinal and recreational usage in the privacy of their own home.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Canada?

Yes, medical marijuana is legal in Canada and has been since around the year 2000.

Initially, the drug was made legal for patients suffering from HIV/AIDs, and since then, the list of prerequisite symptoms has expanded to incorporate ADHD, Alzheimer's Disease, Anxiety, Cancer pain, Chronic Pain and many more.

As of June 2019, there were over 360,000 medical marijuana patients across Canada, which is an enormous uptick compared with the 23,900 that had been prescribed as of June 2015. Statista predicts that with this range of growth the medical marijuana industry in Canada will reach $2.3 billion by 2021.

At the beginning of Canada's medicinal legalization of cannabis, there were three ways in which patients could procure their cannabis supplies. They could either apply for a personal production license and grow their own cannabis, they could purchase cannabis from Health Canada, or they could purchase from an approved third party who grew cannabis.

These methods for acquiring medical marijuana were overtaken by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) which took over in 2013, creating a system of licensed producers to cultivate cannabis and banning the previous method of Personal Production Licenses.

As of the 10th of October 2019, 194 authorized licensed medical marijuana producers had been approved by Health Canada – most of which are based in Ontario.

Is CBD Legal in Canada?

CBD is legal in Canada for recreational consumption. CBD, for those who are unaware, is cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound found within the cannabis plant. CBD has been shown to help with a host of medical issues like epilepsy, inflammation, and chronic pain.

As CBD is a cannabis extract, the cannabinoid compound was previously only legal for medical purposes in Canada prior to the legalization 2.0 which saw that extracts would become accessible for Canadian citizens. In fact, many were confused surrounding the legality of CBD in Canada due to the fact that the compound doesn't actually get you high as CBD is typically extracted from hemp plants and contains around 0.3% THC levels. Regardless, Canada maintained a strict stance on the compound until October 2019.

Many consumers seek to use CBD for wellness purposes, such as in skincare products, to aid with their sleep and to relax their muscles.

According to the president of the Canadian Health Food Association, "A greater number of Canadians are searching for CBD products for their health, not to get high. CBD doesn't have THC in it, it doesn't have that high component."

So there you have Canada's cannabis laws, which still remain very new overall. Many of the extended range of form factors are only just hitting shelves, and it looks like things are just getting started.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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