Just because Canada legalized marijuana in 2018, it doesn’t mean that you’ll find a weed dispensary in every corner. It also doesn’t mean that you can light up a joint wherever you want and not face any consequences.
Because this countrywide legalization is still in its infancy, there’s a long way to go when it comes to establishing a strong infrastructure of growers and sellers of marijuana. Will the private sector be able to benefit from this?
Will the government have a monopoly? How easy is it to find a store? These questions and more will be answered in this article.
What is a Weed Dispensary?
A weed dispensary, or marijuana store, is a legal establishment that carries a license to sell marijuana products.
It’s also one of the best places for you to obtain accurate information on the various strains of weed, side effects, benefits, and more recently, the most up-to-date local laws regarding the purchase and use of marijuana.
Most weed dispensaries sell bulbs or pre-rolled joints, as well as any kind of accessory or gadget that you may need to smoke the stuff.
However, edible weed products aren’t expected to hit the shelves until 2020 at the earliest since they fall under different regulations.
Here’s How to Get Weed from Dispensary
Although cannabis is now legal all over Canada, not everyone can buy weed from a dispensary. Some provinces and territories have a minimum age requirement of 19 years.
Alberta is the only province that sells to 18-year-olds. On the other hand, in the largest French-speaking province of Quebec, the minimum age is 21.
This is a bit of a head-scratcher because Quebec may just have the greatest number of legal cannabis dispensaries compared to other provinces.
If you’re driving through British Columbia, you could theoretically buy some weed if you’re at least 19. But, due to the early 2019 stricter regulation of private retail, there aren’t as many shops as you may expect to see.
It’s best to check the official websites for each province and familiarize yourself with the laws and legislation before going there to buy a joint.
With that in mind, there are some other things that you should know about smoking weed in Canada, such as what to do after you leave the weed dispensary with your newly acquired joint.
Where and How Can You Smoke?
Again, you’ll run into different regulatory issues depending on the province. In some parts of Canada, take Ontario for example, you can’t smoke weed if you’re less than 66 feet from a playground.
The same thing applies if you’re in close proximity to a day care center or school. You may also have to keep your joint in your pocket if you’re close to hotels or other tobacco-free areas.
Cannabis smoke falls under the same legislation as tobacco smoke. But it’s not all bad. Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia are the few provinces where you can smoke weed in public, as long as you’re following all the rules.
On the other hand, places like Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and even Newfoundland and Labrador have banned marijuana consumption in public.
This is something that’s always left to the local jurisdiction to decide, even when the purchase of weed from a weed dispensary is legal throughout the country.
Can You Smoke Weed in Your Car?
No, you can’t. Even though it’s a legal recreational drug, driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance, legal or banned, can still expose you to fines and potential prison time.
You’re also obligated to keep your cannabis sealed and locked away if it’s in your vehicle. It should be out of reach of passengers and drivers.
Most people advise keeping your cannabis in your trunk to avoid any kind of problems from overzealous officers.
This makes sense given that the use of marijuana can impair your driving skills, much like alcohol consumption would.
Known Side Effects of Smoking Weed
- Increased anxiety
- Impaired judgement
- Memory problems
- Slowed reaction time
- Accentuated depression symptoms
- Distorted thinking or heightened senses
Leaving and Entering the Country
You should know that if you want to bring your own cannabis, Canada doesn’t allow tourists to enter the country in possession of their own weed.
Even if it comes from another country where it’s legal to grow and use it recreationally.
You’ll also have to deal with fines or potential jail time if you leave the country with weed that’s purchased legally at a Canadian weed dispensary.
This makes a lot of sense. One of the main reasons for legalizing marijuana is to create new local business opportunities and help the economy.
Smoking and Carrying Weed Laws Recap
- Maximum carry limit is 30 grams
- You can’t drive if you are high
- You can’t have open containers with cannabis in a vehicle
- Different territories have different restrictions about where you can smoke
How Can I Find a Weed Dispensary Near Me?
This is a question that lots of people have, both locals and tourists, and for good reason. Weed has only become legal not too long ago.
This means that there aren’t too many legal places to buy the stuff just yet. But the few that will open up in time will be added to the official websites.
In case you didn’t know, you may want to head to your province’s website. You’ll find a section that deals only with information regarding the local regulations, including restrictions and whatnot.
You can use those websites to find a Canadian weed dispensary near you. However, if you’d rather not purchase from local government-run websites, you can always turn to a private service provider.
Check Out Leafly to Find Your Closest Weed Source
Leafly is an online service that caters to patients and people who want an online alternative to the local weed dispensary. The website does use location tracking to filter the displayed results.
This means that unless you live in Canada or the United States, you won’t see any relevant results.
You don’t have to register for an account but only provide age and location information. The app will then display any stores that are near you.
You may be wondering how many cities are on the app? The answer is most (but not all) major cities in Canada have a weed dispensary. Toronto, however, is not on the list.
What’s also great is that Leafly provides other valuable information regarding popular cannabis strains, top-rated products, and US and Canadian news stories about cannabis, including legislative changes.
There are, of course, other weedmaps available online, but it’s hard to say at the moment the ones that are credible and accurate and the ones that aren’t.
With the readily available municipal websites, there’s little incentive for private app developers to create a similar service. Perhaps at least until they’ve got the advertising schemes figured out.
How to Open a Weed Dispensary
You may be curious about how to open a weed dispensary. After all, given the craze over the legalizing of marijuana, you’re bound to make a profit during your first years in business at least, no?
Well, here’s what you need to know about starting your own business in this niche. It’s not as easy as you think.
Some provinces, such as Ontario, have decided that the government should handle everything, making it near impossible for private entrepreneurs to open up a weed store.
On the other hand, states like Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba are more friendly to and trusting of the private sector.
In terms of what you need, opening a weed dispensary is like any other business in a sense. You’ll need to pick a company name, register your business, consider financing options, open a corporate bank account, and the likes.
You could also get lucky and win one of the state-operated cannabis license lotteries, but those tend to favor companies with serious financial power.
It’s probably best if you go to a law firm that specializes in corporate laws – at least that’s what near everybody does in Canada and the US. Once that’s done, you’ll also have to apply for a license to sell weed.
The approval of a weed dispensary license in Canada is handled by the local authorities.
Depending on the province where you’d like to set up shop, the application process may be slightly different but ultimately not difficult.
It’s after the application that the real hurdles begin. As of now, it can take up to eight months to get approved for a license.
And even then, it’s far from a guarantee.
Most local authorities will likely want to review your business plan first. You might want to put a lawyer on retainer during this time for the legal counsel, which you’re going to need.
You should also keep in mind that not everyone can apply for a license, even if the private sector is favored in a province.
There are a couple of eligibility conditions for obtaining a cannabis license, some of which are common sense conditions and the others are financial.
That’s about it when it comes to the legal stuff. But remember that you’ll also need a business location. Rather than signing a lease for any suitable location that catches your eye.
You’ll also have to check zoning regulations to make sure that marijuana stores aren’t banned in that area.
Lastly, you’ll also have to start making connections with cultivators to see what kind of deals you can make. You’d want to do that even if you’re a grower.
Is Canada the Newfound Haven for Recreational Weed Users?
Given the fact that you don’t have to be a Canadian citizen or resident to buy weed from a weed dispensary, it’s safe to say that this is the place to be for North American tourists.
Canada is within driving distance, certainly closer than the Netherlands, and perhaps a lot cheaper too. Unless you really want to experiment with a wider range of psychotropics, there’s no reason to fly to Europe for weed any longer.