How will Canadians buy pot? It depends where they live

Pot becomes legal on Wednesday, but the rules vary widely across the country, with some provinces allowing private retail sales and others putting recreational cannabis under the control of government-run monopolies. Here's a guide to the rules.

Provinces and territories differ on where you can buy and consume cannabis

Recreational cannabis becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17. Provinces and territories are taking different approaches when it comes to making it available, with some opting for private retail stores and others for government-run monopolies. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

A single federal law legalized recreational cannabis in Canada. But a patchwork of rules and regulations govern how you will be able to buy and consume pot. Some provinces will allow private retailers to sell pot, others are government controlled monopolies.

B.C. will have just one government-run pot store up and running in time for legalization, while Nunavut will offer sales by telephone. Ontario is still trying to get legislation through that will allow for private retailing (likely to begin next spring).

This interactive tool allows you to select a province or territory and see everything from the possession limits, to the retail model and consumption rules. Below, find more information and links for each province and territory in Canada.

Provinces and territories differ as well on how much you can possess and where you can legally consume cannabis. In most provinces, you can possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. But in Quebec you can have up to 150 grams at home. In New Brunswick, you can smoke in your own private residence. If you're in someone else's house, you need the owner's permission — so renters take note.

It's a whole new industry with new rules for consumers, police, lawyers and judges. This guide is intended to help you find the information you need, but remember some of these laws are in flux and municipalities can put in place additional regulations. When in doubt, check the actual regulations for each province and territory.

Jurisdictions vary on how much pot they are allowing residents to possess in public. But people can have as many as 150 grams in their personal residence. In Quebec, people can have 30 grams in public and as many as 150 grams in their home. (David Donnelly/CBC)

British Columbia

B.C.'s sole government-run pot store will be located in Kamloops. Private retailers will increase consumer options. Online sales will be run by the province.


The Yukon Liquor Corporation will open one store in Whitehorse. Though the territory's website (with a countdown clock to legalization) says "Yukon's plan is to enable private retail stores to operate under a licensing regime after legalization."


Alberta offers a mix of private and government-run retail. Storefront licenses have been awarded to applicants but online sales will be run by the provincial government. Like most provinces, questions abound on how many stores will be ready in time. Edmonton has the most stores. Calgary will have just two shops open when legalization kicks in.


Whether you're buying online or in person, people in Saskatchewan will rely solely on the private market for cannabis distribution. Dozens of licenses were initially awarded in a lottery and more will be awarded in the coming months. Not all of the licensed stores will be up and running by Oct. 17.


It's still unclear how many private retail shops will open in Manitoba. The provincial government says Ottawa moved too quickly and didn't allow enough time for provinces to manage issues ranging from road side tests to federal packaging, excise stamps, online age verification and seed-to-sale verification. 

The province maintains it's still on track to meet its goal of having cannabis retail outlets within a 30-minute drive for 90 per cent the population open within two years.

Some provinces are still working out the fine print of their cannabis policies. A recent change in government in Ontario, for example, means that the rules are still being tweaked. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner/Associated Press)


Nunavut had to find a word for cannabis. The Inuktitut word for weed is "surrarnaqtuq." The territory will sell cannabis online and by phone once it's legal. Consumption is largely permitted wherever you can smoke cigarettes, with a long list of exceptions, including: playgrounds, parades and other outdoor public events.


Canada's most populous province enters legalization with plenty of question marks. The new Progressive Conservative government is introducing legislation which will broaden consumption rules (allowing cannabis to be consumed in most places you can smoke tobacco) and permit for private retail stores. But for now, the province will only sell through the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store. Expect private retail to be up and running sometime in the spring of 2019.


Often known for its relatively liberal laws around beer and wine sales, Quebec has opted for a government-run retail chain. It plans to have 12 retail outlets open by Oct. 17. Three more should open by the end of the month. Like most jurisdictions, Quebec allows consumers to possess up to 30 grams in public. But the province was the only one to cap the amount of pot that someone can have in their own home — at 150 grams. Quebec was also one of just two provinces — along with Manitoba — to forbid people from growing plants at home. Everywhere else, you can have up to four plants.

A Hexo Corp. employee examines cannabis plants in one of the company's greenhouses on Oct. 11 in Masson Angers, Que. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick

Cannabis NB expects sales of $45 million in its first year of sales. The provincially-regulated distributor will be responsible for all pot sales in New Brunswick. It's a subsidiary of the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation. Twenty stores are expected to be open and ready on Oct. 17

Prince Edward Island

Canada's smallest province will be a national leader in the number of most cannabis stores per capita. PEI Cannabis will open three retail outlets and will sell pot online with another expected to open in November. That would mean four shops for the island's 153,244 residents.

Nova Scotia

Most cannabis sales in Nova Scotia will take place inside existing liquor stores. Twelve existing Nova Scotia Liquor Commission locations will have a "store within a store" offering pot sales. One stand alone location in Halifax is expected to be open in time for legalization. Statistics Canada says Nova Scotians currently lead the country in per capita cannabis consumption

Nova Scotia residents will be able to purchase cannabis at 12 Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation stores across the province. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Newfoundland and Labrador

The province is expected to have about 30 private retail stores open for legalization. All online sales will be done through the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation.

The liquor corporation's Cannabis NL division says there may be "instances and areas" of the province where private retailers don't want to set up shop. In such cases, liquor stores may sell cannabis.

Premier Dwight Ball says legal weed can go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 17. But, by law stores will have to close again at 2 a.m.

Northwest Territories

Cannabis sales will be run by the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission, though the government has now said it will open the retail market to private entrepreneurs. Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod released the regulations for cannabis stores last week.

Video: How will Canadians buy pot? It depends where they live

Legal weed in Canada: How it works where you live | Power & Politics

5 years ago
Duration 1:58
Marijuana will be legal in Canada starting Oct. 17, but the rules are different in each province. CBC's Power & Politics breaks it down.


Senior Business reporter for CBC News. A former host of On the Money and World Report on CBC Radio, Peter Armstrong has been a foreign correspondent and parliamentary reporter for CBC. Subscribe to Peter's newsletter here: Twitter: @armstrongcbc