How the provinces are planning for pot legalization

When the federal government announced it would legalize marijuana, it left it up to the provinces to license the product and oversee its distribution and sale. Here's a look at what the provinces and territories are planning.

Federal Liberals pushing for legalization by July 1, 2018

When the federal Liberal government announced it would be legalizing marijuana, it left it up to the provinces to licence the product and oversee its distribution and sale. (CBC News)

When the federal government announced it would be legalizing marijuana, it left it up to the provinces to license the product and oversee its distribution and sale. This has prompted provinces and territories to come up with their own plans to sell pot before July 1, 2018, when marijuana is scheduled to be legalized under federal legislation.

Here's a look at which provinces have laid out their plans and which are still working out the kinks.


British Columbia announced its model in early December, saying that the minimum age would be 19 and that people would be able to buy legal pot in private and public stores.


Different provinces have different takes on how best to proceed with legal pot. Some will have provincially-run retailers, others are turning to private shops. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

In Alberta, a bill has been introduced that would make the government responsible for any online retail marijuana sales. But the private sector isn't being shut out —  retail locations would be operated by private companies.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission would be responsible for oversight of private retail, and details on licensing will be available early next year, the province said.

The bill would set the minimum age for purchase and use at 18, the same as the province's legal drinking age. It would also ban the sale of cannabis alongside alcohol, pharmaceuticals or tobacco.

People who want to consume pot will face some limits in Alberta — the new legislation outlaws use in places ranging from schools and daycares to hospitals, CBC's Michelle Bellefontaine reported on Thursday as Rachel Notley's government outlined its plan.


Sales in Saskatchewan will be handled by private retailers and regulated by the government. The province says the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority will issue 52 retail permits to private operators in 32 municipalities and First Nation communities.

Permits will initially go to places with populations of at least 2,500 and larger communities will be allocated additional permits.

Eligible First Nations and municipalities will have the option to opt out of having a retail cannabis store. The final number of retail permits are to depend on the number of community leaders who decide they don't want a retail outlet.

In March, Saskatchewan announced the remainder of its framework, including details about the legal age of consumption. The minimum age for cannabis use will be 19, which is the same as the province's legal drinking age.

The province also announced that each household will be allowed up to four cannabis plants. There is also a limit of 30 grams of cannabis per consumer.

Saskatchewan was the final province to announce its plan for legal pot. The delay irked the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), which has complained that municipalities are unable to prepare.


In Manitoba, pot won't be sold where alcohol is sold. (CBC)

In Manitoba, the province has said it will pursue a "hybrid model" for selling marijuana. The Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA) will regulate the purchase, storage, distribution and retail of cannabis while the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL) will secure and track supply of cannabis sold in the province.

But as in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the private sector will be responsible for selling the product.

In early December, the government said that the minimum age to buy pot would be 19, a year older than the provincial drinking age of 18. The government also said Manitobans would be able to order pot online through retailers who also have a storefront, but would be barred from growing it at home unless they had a medical licence.


As the CBC's Mike Crawley reported, the Ontario government plans to open stand-alone stores, all run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). But people shopping at the stores won't be able to browse the aisles and grab what they want, the province says. Instead, there will be a behind-the-counter setup similar to what's seen now when buying cigarettes.

The initial rollout includes 80 stores, but the province says online shopping will cover the province.

As it is for alcohol purchases, the minimum age to purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario would be 19.  Buyers in Ontario will also face limits on where they use marijuana, with a ban on use in public places.


The proposal from Quebec would have zero tolerance for drugged driving. (Jim Mone/Canadian Press/AP)

Under Quebec's proposed legislation, buyers will need to be at least 18 years old (like several other provinces, this age mirrors the legal age for buying alcohol).

Among other things, the legislation would bar people from growing cannabis for personal use at home and would limit smoking to the same places where people can currently light up a cigarette.

CBC's Kalina Laframboise reported that under the proposed plan, the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQC) will buy pot from a producer and deal with transportation and storage of the product.

There will be 15 stores scattered around the province, and online sales will also be on offer.

The province's public health minister seems to expect some tinkering as the legalization process unfolds.

"It's not the end, it's the only the beginning," said Lucie Charlebois. "It's certain that we will have to adapt."

New Brunswick

New Brunswick has laid out how it intends to proceed, and CBC's Jacques Poitras reports that users can expect limits. 

Under the province's proposal, there will be no smoking in public places and there will be a limit on how many grams a person can carry, Poitras reported last week when the province presented its plan.

At home, people can store however much they like, but they have to keep it in either a locked-up room or a locked container. 

Up to 20 government-run stores will be established with strict policies in place: they will be located at least 300 metres away from schools, they will only display products under glass, and customers will need to show identification to prove they are of legal age — 19 years or older — before they can even get in.

There's no word on what the stores will be called or what the price will be, but we do know that online sales will be allowed.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is also setting its legal age at 19. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Newfoundland and Labrador unveiled its plan on Nov. 23, saying that it would have a minimum age of 19 to buy and use marijuana, in line with its current drinking age.

Pot will be sold in approved private stores, with distribution handled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). In some areas, though, NLC may be the retailer, too.

Online sales will also be an option.

But wherever people buy it, they're going to be barred from smoking pot on public property, CBC's Geoff Bartlett reports.

Nova Scotia

The government has announced the legal age for consumption will be 19 and over, with a possession limit of 30 grams per person and a household growing limit of four plants. The product will be sold through some, though not all, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlets as well as through online sales.


Prince Edward Island announced on Dec. 7 it plans to sell marijuana at standalone outlets run separately from its liquor commission, as well as through an online component. Those 19 and over can legally purchase marijuana, which to begin will be legally restricted to private residences.


In Yukon, according to a framework unveiled by the territory, the legal age to buy marijuana will be 19.

According to the territorial government website, Yukon will "own and operate at least one retail store and provide an e-commerce option."

Going forward, Justice Minister Tracey-Anne McPhee suggested the retailing could be a mix of government and private-sector outlets.

"It's important to recognize that the proposed framework represents a starting point," she said.

Northwest Territories

The government in the Northwest Territories also released details of its proposed plan, calling for a minimum legal age of 19. According to the government's framework, the N.W.T Liquor Commission will be in charge of import and distribution.

Adults will be allowed to grow marijuana at home under the proposed plan, but will be limited to four plants and there will be restrictions on where people can consume pot in public.


​The Nunavut government has not yet unveiled its plan or released the results of its survey regarding pot legalization.

Two more provinces have announced how they plan to sell recreational pot once it becomes legal. That brings the number to five. But beyond selling the drug, there are still other issues that need to be ironed out — so many that some provinces are calling next year's Canada Day deadline for legalization too ambitious 3:35


  • A previous version of this story said incorrectly that the legal age to purchase marijuana had yet to be decided in New Brunswick. In fact, the province has decided the legal age will be 19.
    Nov 17, 2017 4:36 PM ET

With files from The Canadian Press


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