Legislative Background and Updates

Who’s Responsible?

The federal government formalized its intention to legalize cannabis in April 2017 when it introduced Bill C-45. It is expected that it will legalize cannabis in summer 2018.

In the meantime, possessing and selling cannabis for non-medical purposes remains illegal. The federal government does not allow for the retail sale of either medical cannabis or recreational cannabis.  Recreational cannabis is illegal and medical cannabis can only be purchased legally via mail-order. Still, many retail outlets have opened across Canada illegally and shutting down a cannabis dispensary is both time-consuming and expensive for municipalities. In some cities, including Nelson, temporary regulations were put in place to limit any new outlets from opening, as well as provide for the safety of consumers and employees of these outlets. 

The federal government has stated legalization of cannabis will be done with a public health focus. Their key objectives include to:

  • restrict youth access to cannabis
  • protect young persons by prohibiting promotion or enticements to use cannabis
  • enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis
  • deter and reduce criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who provide cannabis to young persons
  • protect public health through strict product safety and quality requirements
  • provide for the legal production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities
  • allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality-controlled, legal cannabis
  • reduce the burden on the criminal justice system

The Province of British Columbia may establish stricter regulations than the federal government. It is also responsible for many matters of implementation, such as how and by whom cannabis may be sold and where it may be consumed. For the latest on what has been decided specifically for British Columbia, visit their website.

Even once cannabis is legal, numerous restrictions will apply to those producing, selling, purchasing and consuming it:

  • Cannabis purchase and consumption will be limited to adults 19 years of age and older.
  • Adults will be able to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public.
  • Smoking and vaping cannabis will likely not be permitted in all public places, similar to smoking.
  • Cannabis-impaired drivers will face stiff penalties.
  • Cannabis will be sold in both publicly- and privately-owned stores.
  • Commercial production of cannabis will be strictly regulated by the federal government and restricted to licensed growers only.
  • Individuals will be able to grow cannabis plants at home for their own use only: up to four (4) plants per household.
  • The sole wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia will be the Liquor Distribution Branch.
  • Restrictions on how cannabis is advertised will be set by higher levels of government.