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Cannabis legalization in British Columbia: What You Should Know

Thursday 01st, November 2018 / 15:16
By Jamila Pomeroy

Photo by Ryan Walter Wagner

On October 17, Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalize cannabis, second to Uruguay. During the first 24 hours of legalization, B.C’s online legal government cannabis sales came in at around 10,000 individual sales, and about 100,000 individual sales at the Ontario online legal government cannabis store. While the province is roughly three-times the size of B.C. in population, our sales are still significantly lower than Ontario, when broken down to a population size more comparable to B.C.; if Ontario were to have a similar population as us, their average online sales would have come in at around at over 30,000, three-times more than B.C. The online sales have since dropped to about 8,700 a week and have been projected to continue to drop. It’s hard to say at this point whether the low sales are due to the province’s allegiance to the grey-zone cannabis infrastructure that was in place prior to legalization, or to the talked about inferior government cannabis: perhaps British Columbians have been spoiled living in Canada’s Amsterdam.

Regardless of low sales there seems to be a slightly more noticeable essence of the green stuff in the Vancouver air, with dispensary line-ups larger than usual. The government of Canada is clearly putting light on the recreational use of cannabis, steering from touching on the medicinal side of the plant, hopefully just for the time being. When calling into the government’s online store call centre with questions about cannabis, in regards to health and ailments, you will most likely be given vague information that steers clear of offering health advice, and lacks the resources to direct you to said health advice. The Health Canada born Medicinal Cannabis program still remains, but it appears the legalization and sudden social acceptance of cannabis has further embedded medicinal programing: making light of British Columbian stoner culture, while leaving medicinal patients in the dark.

Despite the newfound acceptance of the plant, there seems to be much confusion over the laws and regulations surrounding. Here are some crucial things you should know about cannabis legalization in Canada:

Who is eligible?
You must be 19 years or older to buy, use, possess, and grow non-medical cannabis.
Exemptions are made to those with medical cannabis permits.

Where is cannabis sold, and how do I know the cannabis I am purchasing is legal?
Cannabis will be sold exclusively at government-run stores, licensed private retailers, and the B.C. government’s online store. While prior to legalization, dispensaries were monitored by their respective police and municipal forces, licensed private retailers will now be both monitored and licenced by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. Non-medical cannabis is to carry an excise stand on its packaging, similar to the stamp found on tobacco: the excise stamp acts as verification that the product is from both a licenced grower and retailer, while assuring the correct tax has been paid. All cannabis products without this excise stamp are not legal. Medical cannabis purchasers will continue to purchase through the government.

How much can I carry and grow?
Adults 19+ are permitted to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in a public place, or your own home. Connective, you may not grow more than the allotted 1,000 grams; projections should be based on the expected yield from four cannabis plants (limmit four plants per-household). Exemptions are made for medical cannabis permit holders.

Where can I use cannabis?
Public use laws follow suit of tobacco smoking laws, excluding smoking in communal spaces such as playgrounds and sports fields. Cannabis users are prohibited from smoking within six metres of air intakes, windows, and doors. While smoking tobacco is illegal in most indoor facilities, smoking cannabis in hotel rooms for example, is legal, should the hotel permit it. Exemptions are made for medical cannabis permit holders. Like alcohol and other impairing substances, it is illegal to drive while high; there has been no differentiation yet made, in regards to whether the consumption of isolated CBD based cannabis products can be legally consumed prior to driving. Consumption in or on private property is fully legal, however, renters must abide by landlords, strata council rules.

While it is clear that the focus of legalization and cannabis legislation has been on non-medical cannabis, medical cannabis, and the medical cannabis program is still available to those with the proper corresponding ailments. Carriers of medical cannabis permits will still be governed by many of the prospective laws set prior to legalization; there are exemptions for use of Health Canada authorized medical cannabis on school property and on intercity busses, trains, and boats as long as specific requirements are met. Specific details of Health Canada authorized medical cannabis law can be found in the updated Order in Council No. 542, updated this October; although they are not written in layman’s terms, providing as information inaccessible to the general public, without the presence of a law professional, or persons familiar with reading legislative amendments.

If the first few weeks of cannabis legalization have told us anything, it’s that British Columbians appear to have a greater trust or allegiance to the existing ecosystem of cannabis; a system that has been built on grassroots and not a glass ceiling, encompassing both the recreational and medicinal attributes of cannabis. We can only hope the government will follow suit, providing accessible information to Canadians, and products that serve a wide range of consumers.

For more information on cannabis legislation, law, and the corresponding amendments, visit;
cannabis.gov.bc.ca