Canada Cannabis Laws: Know Your Rights!

By Last Updated: September 8, 2023

Is cannabis legal in Canada?

Canada Cannabis Laws Cannabis has been decriminalized in Canada. This means that possession, use, and distribution are permitted to a certain extent. Possession, use, and distribution while permitted, are heavily regulated and safeguarded in Canada. Cannabis was officially decriminalized in Canada in 2018. Possession, use, and distribution of cannabis is not unfettered and is regulated under the Cannabis Act SC 2018 c 16.

What is legal as of October 17, 2018

As discussed in more detail below, what is legal depends on both the Federal and Provincial regulations related to cannabis. However, following the decriminalization of cannabis by the Federal government, as of October 17, 2018, the following is legal:

  • Possessing of up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public
    • One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:
      • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
      • 15 grams of edible product
      • 70 grams of liquid product
      • 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
      • 1 cannabis plant seed
  • sharing up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults;
  • purchasing dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer
    • in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers;
  • growing, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use; and
  • making cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.

This information and more is available of the Government of Canada’s website linked here.

What is the Cannabis Act?

The Cannabis Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2018. “The Cannabis Act creates a legal and regulatory framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada” (see: The Government of Canada’s website ts framework was informed by a task force put together by the Federal government which was dedicated to assessing the potential impacts of legalizing cannabis in Canada. This task force consulted different provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as, Indigenous communities, relevant organizations, youth, experts, etc. The product of the work completed by this task force and the investigations undergone is the Cannabis Act. As stated by the Federal government, this Act:

  • restricts youth access to cannabis;
  • prohibits promotions that are designed to encourage youth to use cannabis;
  • imposes serious criminal penalties on people who break the law, especially those who import or export cannabis illegally, or provide cannabis to youth;
  • establishes strict product safety and quality requirements;
  • reduces the burden on the criminal justice system;
  • provides for the legal production of cannabis;
  • allows adults to possess and access regulated, quality-controlled, legal cannabis; and
  • enhances public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis (see: The Government of Canada’s website

Federal vs Provincial Legislation

The following table from the Government of Alberta’s website illustrates the different areas for which jurisdictional responsibility related to cannabis laws falls within. As a general rule of thumb, licensed production of cannabis is controlled by the federal government and distribution and sale of cannabis is controlled by the provincial governments.

Activity Responsible
Federal Provincial Municipal
Possession limits ** Yes No No
Trafficking Yes No No
Advertisement & packaging ** Yes No No
Impaired driving Yes Yes No
Medical cannabis Yes No No
Seed-to-sale tracking system Yes No No
Production (cultivation and processing) Yes No No
Age limit (federal minimum) ** Yes No No
Public health Yes Yes No
Education Yes Yes Yes
Taxation Yes Yes Yes
Home cultivation (growing plants at home) ** Yes No No
Workplace safety No Yes No
Distribution and wholesaling No Yes No
Retail model No Yes No
Retail location and rules No Yes Yes
Regulatory compliance Yes Yes No
Public consumption No Yes Yes
Land use/zoning No No Yes

This table comes from the Government of Alberta’s website linked here.

How much cannabis can a person possess?

As mentioned previously, an individual may possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public.

  • One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:
    • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
    • 15 grams of edible product
    • 70 grams of liquid product
    • 25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
    • 1 cannabis plant seed

Can you purchase illegal cannabis?

The short answer to this question, is no. Purchasers are expected to be vigilant and only buy from authorized retailers. Knowingly being in possession of illegal pot (not purchased through a licensed retailer) is punishable by a maximum fine of $5000 and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail. You are responsible for deciphering between licensed retailers and illegitimate ones. Visit the Government of Canada’s website here to learn how one can differentiate between a licensed retailer and an illegitimate one.

And for a list of authorized retailers, you can visit the Government of Canada’s page here.

What drugs are illegal in Canada?

While not exhaustive, the following commonly used recreational drugs are illegal in Canada:

  • MDMA (Molly, Ecstasy, E)
  • Marijuana (Pot, Weed, Blunts)
  • Acid (LSD)
  • Mushrooms (Psilocybin)
  • DMT
  • Methamphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Poppers (Nitrites)
  • Speed (Crystal Meth)
  • GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate)
  • Heroine
  • Special K (Ketamine)

Drug possession, use and distribution is regulated mainly under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, SC 1996, c 19. If you are ever unsure of a drug’s treatment under the law, this Act is a good reference.

Can I drive if high on cannabis?

No! Driving impaired is a serious offence in Canada and can carry severe penalties such as a criminal record. Driving under the influence – whether it be by alcohol or drugs – is illegal and can be treated criminally. The Criminal Code prohibits driving while impaired to any degree by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Penalties for this offence range from a mandatory minimum fine to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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