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Leading the way: Canada’s approach to legalization of recreational cannabis

Canada, second country in the world after Uruguay to legalize recreational cannabis. The Cannabis Act came into force in October 2018 and aims to achieve three key objectives: safeguarding public health and safety by providing legal access for adults, keeping cannabis away from youth, and fighting criminals and the black market.

The Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, with the national flag flying.

Canada has taken the step forward by legalizing recreational cannabis. On October 18, 2018, the Liberal party led by Justin Trudeau, established a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the production, distribution, sale, and possession of this plant. The Cannabis Act was crafted to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, steer cannabis away from youth and keep profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.

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Since then, the recreational use of cannabis has been legal for adults of legal age (at least 18 or 19, depending on the province or territory). In public, it is legal to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or an equivalent amount in non-dried form. Also is allowed to grow up to four plants and to purchase cannabis from authorized dealers.

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In addition, at the end of 2019, the sale of edible cannabis products, cannabis extracts and topical cannabis products was allowed.

Making recreational use of cannabis is allowed in Canada since 2018. In the picture, someone is smoking in a backyard.

Canada has made a great effort to disseminate accurate and detailed information on the health effects of cannabis and tips for responsible consumption through various channels, as well as on the country’s official website. Emphasizing the importance of public education regarding cannabis, Canada has allocated approximately $46 million for education and awareness programs on its risks and effects. These initiatives seek to inform Canadians, especially youth, about the potential health and safety impacts associated with cannabis use.

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These efforts to keep cannabis out of the reach of young people, in addition to education and outreach, are also complemented by legal measures. The sale or supply of cannabis to minors is considered a serious crime, with severe penalties. Also, the government has pushed for packaging and presentation regulations for cannabis edibles so that they are unappealing to youngsters. This is intended to avoid confusion with common foods or beverages, and accidental ingestion.

Examples of cannabis edibles wrappers and labels from Canada. Photo by: Janice Golding

In Canada, cannabis regulation is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Each province and territory has some flexibility to establish additional measures or variations in the implementation of cannabis policies. For example, there are specific laws related to the transportation of cannabis plants.Β 

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One person can travel by air with up to four non-flowering plants from a province that allows travel with plants to another province that also allows travel with plants, for example from Vancouver Island to Edmonton but not to Quebec or Manitoba, where self-cultivation was banned on April 14, 2023. Therefore, to be sure about what is allowed and what is not, it is best to consult the policies of each territory directly.

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However, crossing the Canadian border with cannabis and related products, including those containing CBD, is prohibited both when leaving or entering the country.

Information sign at the airport exit control.

With all this in mind, Canada not only provides solid regulation and protection for Canadian citizens who use cannabis, but also sets an example for the rest of the world. This pioneering country shows that a fairer and more balanced cannabis policy can provide tangible benefits to society, improving the safety of adults, as well as drying criminal groups.

A Canadian woman celebrating the legalization of cannabis. Photo by: AFP.

As we move into the future, cannabis policies around the world are shifting towards a more liberal and permissive approach. The Canadian experience can serve as an inspiration and guide for other countries looking to implement similar regulations. The legalization of cannabis in Canada is a significant milestone and marks the beginning of a new era, moving away from prohibitionism and criminalization.

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DISCLAIMER:
This content is intended for educational and entertainment purposes ONLY.
We DO NOT endorse or promote illegal activities related to cannabis.
Please adhere to the laws and regulations of your jurisdiction regarding cannabis use.