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Twenty burning questions as recreational cannabis goes legal in Canada

By Rick Schettino
Oct 17, 2018

All eyes are on Canada Wednesday as the United States northern neighbor officially becomes the first major industrialized nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Canada’s Cannabis Act provides for a nationwide legal cannabis market while leaving many of the applicable regulatory matters to individual provinces. Each of the country’s ten provinces will be allowed to define how cannabis sales are going to work behind the scenes and at the street level. Some of the areas where provinces will have a say include issues such where and how cannabis products will be marketed and sold, whether or not citizens will be allowed to grow their own, and where to set the legal purchase age — with most provinces choosing between 18 or 19 years of age.

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Here are answers to 20 of the most commonly asked questions about Canada's recreational marijuana laws and markets.

How old does one have to be to buy marijuana in Canada?

Although the federal law allows residents and visitors age 18 and older to buy marijuana, most provinces have raised that age to the legal drinking and smoking age of 19. In comparison, most U.S. states with recreational cannabis laws limit the legal age to 21 or older.

How much marijuana can be purchased in Canada?

The amount of marijuana which can be purchased in one day is 30 grams or about an ounce. It is also the maximum possession that will be allowed in public. Again, in comparison, all but one of the U.S. states have approximately the same limit. Maine’s limit is 2.5 ounces. There is no limit to the amount of marijuana that Canadians can possess at home.

What marijuana products are allowed to be sold in Canada?

Currently, only dried cannabis flower, tinctures, capsules, and seeds can be sold, however beginning in 2019 retailers will be allowed to sell edibles and concentrates.

Where can marijuana be purchased in Canada?

Around 100 dispensaries will be open across Canada on the first day of sales on October 17. Many cities in Canada have opted to ban retail stores from selling marijuana, but all provinces will allow home delivery, and most will have stores. Residents and visitors to the province of Ontario will have to purchase products online through a government-run website for delivery.

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Actual retail stores are expected to open in Ontario by April 2019. New Brunswick is expected to have 20 stores open at launch, while British Columbia will have only one in the city of Kamloops. Nova Scotia is allowing cannabis sales only at stores run by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., the provinces sole distributor of alcohol. Hundreds of more retail outlets are expected to open in the coming year.

Where can users smoke marijuana in Canada?

Smoking of cannabis is prohibited in all public spaces and will only be allowed in private residences and on private property. Penalties for smoking marijuana in public will vary from city to city.

Are Canadians allowed to grow their own marijuana?

Canada’s Cannabis Act allows residents to grow up to four plants at home. Two provinces, however — Quebec and Manitoba — have opted out and currently prohibit home grows. In New Brunswick plants under five feet tall may be grown outdoors, however indoor growing will be allowed in a separate locked space.

How much are Canadian marijuana taxes?

The Canadia federal government has imposed a sales tax of $1 per gram or 10 percent, whichever is greater. Three-quarters of that dollar will be distributed back to the provinces. Each province is also allowed to mandate additional sales taxes, and local sales taxes will also apply.

Who is allowed to cultivate and distribute cannabis in Canada?

Aside from the four-plant limit for home grows, a spokesperson for the Health Minister claims that only 66 out of the more than 100 licensed producers will be ready to sell marijuana to retailers on Day One.

What are the marketing restrictions for marijuana in Canada?

Canada's cannabis laws strictly regulate the packaging and advertising of marijuana in order to avoid the marketing of products which might be appealing to anyone under the legal age. Marijuana can only be sold in packages of a single color without any graphics other than a logo.

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Cannabis companies are not allowed to advertise via TV commercials, billboards, or glossy magazine ads, nor are they allowed to sponsor people or events or put their names on sports and cultural facilities.

What are the impaired driving laws in Canada related to marijuana?

As with alcohol, the Canadian Cannabis Act calls for strict penalties for driving during or after using marijuana. Penalties vary from province to province. The federal government has been working on deciding upon a federally approved screening method to test for marijuana use. Saliva testing for metabolites of THC is a leading contender. Recently, law enforcement agencies greatly increased the training of officers in the assessment of impairment due to marijuana and other drugs.

Is there a sufficient a supply of marijuana in Canada to meet demand?

According to a study by the University of Waterloo and the C.D. Howe Institute, the supply of legal pot in Canada will only meet 30 to 60 percent of demand in the early stages of legalization, leading to potential shortages of marijuana. However, the Canadian government has indicated that it is confident that there will be enough marijuana to go around as soon as legal sales begin

Can Canadian employers prevent their employees from using marijuana?

Employers in Canada will have the option to allow or prohibit marijuana in the workplace. They will also be allowed to decide on measures related to on-the-job impairment. Most employers are expected to expand existing alcohol policies to also cover cannabis use.

How much marijuana does Canada expect to sell?

According to the federal government, estimated annual sales will surpass $4 billion in the first 12 months, and are projected to be as high as $6.5 billion by the end of 2020.

Is there still a medical marijuana program in Canada?

Yes, there is a separate system regulating the use of cannabis in medicine. Some non-recreational related issues include underage use, insurance coverage, and school and work-related rights.

How big are Canada’s biggest licensed producers?

Canada's licensed producers such as Canopy Growth, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Cronos Group, and Aphria are among the biggest cannabis companies on earth with valuations in the billions of dollars. It is estimated that Canadia pot farms cover more than 11 million square feet of space including cultivation space, office space, and warehouse space.

Can Americans buy marijuana in Canada?

Yes. But bringing it back into the U.S. is illegal and comes with very stiff penalties. Furthermore, admission of the use of marijuana while in Canada may cause issues at border crossings.

How do Canadians feel about the legalization of marijuana?

The number of Canadians who support either decriminalization or legalization of marijuana has been increasing since 1997. In June of 2016, a national poll conducted by Nanos Research showed that seven in 10 Canadians favored full legalization. Today, a vast majority of Canadians agree with the statement, "Smoking marijuana should not be a criminal offense."

How many people in Canada use marijuana?

Nearly half of Canadians, including high school students, admit to trying marijuana at least once. Canaccord Genuity published a research study that predicted that approximately 3.8 million persons will be monthly recreational users by 2021. However, a report by Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that by 2021 some 5.2 million adults will be cannabis consumers.

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An October 2016 national poll by Forum claimed that about five million Canadians use cannabis at least once a month. The numbers are expected to increase by about 20 percent after marijuana is legalized.

How will Canadian legalization affect U.S. federal marijuana policy?

Many experts believe that the days of federal marijuana prohibition in the U.S. are numbered. Canada’s move to beat the U.S. to the punch in this matter may end up costing the U.S. billions in lost opportunities as Canadian company’s get a good head start. The majority of voters in the U.S. favor legalization at some level and Canada’s move and the publicity surrounding it are bound to add to the trend.

Can Americans buy Canadian marijuana stocks?

Yes. Americans can purchase stocks of Canadian Cannabis companies on a number of exchanges including the NASDAQ, in the U.S. There are also a number of cannabis-focused exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, via which investments can be made into a collection of cannabis stocks, many of which are Canadian public companies.

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