O, Canada — or is it Cannada?
Our neighbors to the north began legal cannabis sales to adults last week, and by Massachusetts standards, they did so at a breakneck pace. While officials here are still working to turn a July 2017 law regulating commercial marijuana sales into reality, Canadian regulators accomplished the same in just four months.
If you take a road trip or short flight to Montreal, you’ll find several pot shops operated by the provincial government of Quebec, offering dozens of strains of (legal) mood-enhancing cannabis — assuming they’re not out of stock, that is.
Here’s what you should know before heading off to the Great White North:
Where can I find legal marijuana in Canada, and who’s selling it?
Of the nine US states that have legalized marijuana, all but Vermont have created commercial pot markets populated by private companies and regulated by the government.
Most Canadian provinces, however, have opted to sell cannabis the same way they already sell alcohol: from government-run stores.
That’s the case in Montreal, where the Société Québécoise du Cannabis, or SQDC, has a monopoly on marijuana sales. Technically called a “crown corporation,” the SQDC is a subsidiary of the Société des Alcools du Québec, or SAQ, which, as you can probably guess, holds a monopoly on off-premise alcohol sales in the province. Confused? Just imagine the state-run liquor stores along the highway in New Hampshire and you’ll get the idea.
Sales by private retailers are allowed in just three Canadian provinces — Alberta, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador. But even in those regions, the government is the exclusive wholesaler of marijuana. Only Saskatchewan permits federally licensed marijuana growers to sell directly to private retailers, according to Canadian marijuana attorney Kirk Tousaw.
Various third-party companies such as Weedmaps offer convenient online listings of marijuana shops. Alternatively, consult the website of the province in question for the locations of government-run stores.
Another option in Canada: delivery. Canada Post, the country’s equivalent of the US Post Office, will ship weed to your doorstep directly from licensed suppliers with required proof of your age. However, the current high demand means orders could take a week or more to arrive, so plan ahead. Online orders are typically placed through the website of the province in which you’re located.
Speaking of high demand, product shortages have afflicted some shops. We suggest you call ahead and check availability.
What marijuana products are available in Canada?
Consumers in US states with legal recreational marijuana shops have grown accustomed to a dizzying selection of marijuana products, from various strains of marijuana flower to vaporizer cartridges, concentrates, edibles, lotions, tinctures, and so on.
The offerings in Canada will be far more limited, at least for now. Currently, the country only permits sales of marijuana flower (or buds) and a small selection of low-potency oils and capsules. Tousaw says rules allowing edibles and other products could be rolled out next year, but in the meantime, you’ll have to bake your own brownies.
How much does marijuana cost in Canada?
Surprisingly little, at least by Boston-area standards, where consumers for years paid approximately $50 to $60 for an eighth of an ounce of high-quality bud from the illicit market, or about $14 to $17 per gram.
Prices for a gram of marijuana in Canada currently range from around $9 to $15 Canadian, or roughly $7 to $12 US at current exchange rates. That’s a steal compared to the current prices at medical dispensaries in Massachusetts, which typically charge $50 for an eighth of an ounce or $14 per gram.
What’s the minimum purchase age for cannabis in Canada?
You must be at least 19 to buy marijuana in Canada, except in Alberta and Quebec, where the minimum age is 18. That’s a contrast to the United States, where states with legal recreational marijuana have banned sales to anyone under 21.
How much marijuana am I allowed to possess in Canada?
You can carry up to 30 grams of marijuana flower in public. Some provinces have additional limits on how much you can possess at home — in Quebec, it’s 150 grams, in British Columbia, it’s 1,000 — but they’re relatively high and shouldn’t concern the average traveler.
Canadians can also grow up to four plants at home, though some provinces and territories have banned or limited home-growing.
Where can I use cannabis?
Tricky question. Some regions have banned public consumption, while Quebec allows pot-smoking in most areas where it’s legal to smoke cigarettes. Check the laws for the area you’re visiting, and take care not to light up near schools, playgrounds, and other areas where children congregate.
Can I bring my leftover weed home to the United States?
No, definitely not! That’s illegal under both US and Canadian law. However, you can travel with marijuana within Canada, including by air, as long as you keep your stash sealed and concealed, Tousaw said.
What if I’m crossing from Canada into a US border state where marijuana is legal, such as Washington or Vermont?
Still no. Marijuana remains illegal in the United States under federal law, and the border guards for the US Customs and Border Protection agency will enforce that law, not state law. Luckily, Canadian law allows the gifting of marijuana — we suggest handing off your leftover stash off to a friendly Canadian cannabis consumer before heading home.