Canadian legalization round-up

A complete overview of where the provinces and territories currently stand in preparing for legalization

As legalization legislation makes its way through the House of Commons, Canada’s provinces and territories are also working out how to manage and regulate cannabis distribution, sales, age limits, home grows, and more.

Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, is expected to finish debate at report stage and third reading in the House this week or next, and then make its way to the Senate. Along with this federal legislation, provinces and territories are working on or already formally debating their own bills to manage the responsibilities given to them under the Cannabis Act, once it is law.

So far, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec have announced their own legislation for managing these issues, while Manitoba has announced specifics about their intentions, but no formal legislation yet (Manitoba has put forward Bill 25, The Cannabis Harm Prevention Act to target drug-impaired driving).

Several other provinces have said they expect legislation later this fall or by next year. Yukon announced their plans on Monday, Nov 20 for a public/private retail mode. in place by July 2018.

Below is a brief rundown of each province and territory’s emerging intentions for managing legal cannabis by the federal government’s goal of July 2018.



On Nov 16, Alberta put forward Bill 26: An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis, which proposes to allow private retail cannabis stores and province-run online sales, with the system overseen by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

Under the Bill, Albertans would be able to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, and anyone under 18 caught with under five grams of cannabis will face penalties similar to those for possession of alcohol or tobacco. There will be no cap on the amount of retail stores, which will not be allowed to sell anything other than cannabis, cannabis products, and accessories—no tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, or snacks.


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Quebec tabled Bill 157 last Thursday, which would allow cannabis to be sold through the province's liquor board by the Société québécoise du cannabis, with plans for 15 stores by July 2018, as well as online sales. The bill seeks to ban home growing unless authorized by Health Canada for medical use, and proposes to limit Quebecers to 150 grams of dried cannabis in their own homes. The bill also leaves open the possibility for the Minister to implement a pilot project on the retail sale of cannabis.


Premier Brian Pallister announced Manitoba’s plans on November 7th for a model where the Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA) is given an expanded mandate to regulate the purchase, storage, distribution and retail of cannabis. The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL) will secure and track supply of cannabis sold in Manitoba, while the private sector will operate all retail locations.

The province will be issuing a request for proposals from qualified applicants seeking the opportunity to operate one or more retail locations. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 22, with initial locations to open July 2, 2018.


Manitoba announces cannabis retail and distribution system


Ontario was the first to announce their own plans for legalization on November 1st with Bill 174. The bill will have the LCBO manage about 40 retail cannabis locations expected 'from the outset', with 80 retail cannabis stores being run by the province in the first year, and 150 in total by 2020, as well as an LCBO-run online system that will be ready by July 1, 2018.


Ontario unveils cannabis plan for retail stores, online sales, more

Nova Scotia

The province's Justice Minister, Mark Furey, recently said Nova Scotia will announce its plans for regulating cannabis by the end of this year.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick’s Finance Minister Cathy Rogers announced the province’s plans to manage legal cannabis on October 25. NB Liquor will manage 20 retail stores in 15 communities as well as online sales. The province has also signed agreements with Organigram and Canopy Growth to be suppliers for the province’s retail stores. Organigram and Canopy both have facilities in the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons recently said he expects an announcement ‘in the next few weeks’. Nearly 2,600 people (out of a total pop. of approx. 428,000) filled out the province’s online survey.

British Columbia

BC still has not announced any specific plans for managing legal cannabis, but offered an intention to being open to both public and private retail stores in late September. In October, the BC government announced a joint provincial-local government committee that will consider policies related to cannabis legalization and regulation.


Craft growers, dispensaries part of conversation at UBCM


Justice Minister Don Morgan intimated last week that the province likely will allow private retail stores, although no specifics are yet available. Vaughn Solomon Schofield, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, said in her October throne speech that the government is still reviewing the results of its survey. Once the review is completed this fall, Solomon says the province will introduce legislation to govern the sale and distribution of marijuana and “outline measures to protect public health and safety and enhance public education.”

Prince Edward Island

PEI Lieutenant Governor Antoinette Perry said in a throne speech on November 14 that a bill to deal with legal cannabis will be tabled next spring.


PEI: Cannabis legislation by next spring


Northwest Territories

No territories have yet announced their plans for how to manage legal cannabis, but on Oct 24, Louis Sebert, Minister for the Department of Justice with the Government of the Northwest Territories, announced the results of a public survey.  Once legislation has been developed, it will be introduced in the Legislative Assembly and will be available for public review.

One feature of the survey was support for a government agency such as the Liquor Commission to control distribution, with a little more than half of respondents supporting the liquor commission model for retail stores, and others preferring private stores or dispensaries.


Nunavut opened a public consultation in August that ended in late September. As of yet, no other details have been released on the direction Nunavut will take.


Yukon Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee and Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost announced on Monday, Nov 20 that the territory plans to introduce a public/private hybrid retail model, with distribution run by the territory. The government intends to have one government store in place by July 2018, most likely in Whitehorse, and an online retail model. Home growing cannabis up to four plants will be allowed and the minimum age of consumption under the proposed plan will be 19. 

Yukon’s public survey ended on Sept 30. 70% of respondents supported the idea of the Government of Yukon overseeing or managing the distribution of cannabis. 51 per cent favoured allowing sales of cannabis using a mixture of government and private retail stores, with only 19% favouring only government stores and 24% favouring only private.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.

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