Nova Scotia

Patchwork of cannabis policies across N.S. as municipalities weigh options

Most Nova Scotia municipalities are applying provincial regulations regarding cannabis use, but many are considering their own rules.

'It's very confusing for visitors to see different rules from one community to the next'

More than half of the 50 municipalities in Nova Scotia are using provincial regulations when it comes to use of cannabis. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Almost three months after it was legalized across Canada, regulations on how Nova Scotians can use cannabis vary depending on which town or county they're in. 

Some cities and towns, including Berwick, Halifax and Windsor, have approved strict bylaws that ban the use of cannabis on municipal property altogether.

Other areas, including New Glasgow, Lunenburg and Bridgewater, have developed their own rules. 

And then another 31 of the province's 50 municipalities are relying on the provincial regulations, the Smoke-free Places Act. But close to half of those regions say they may still ditch the provincial rules to develop their own regulations around when and how cannabis can be used.

"From what we've seen of the Smoke-free Places Act, that is likely enough," said Greg Horne, the chief administrative officer for the County of Antigonish. 

"But we're not ruling out something of our own in the future."

'Make sure we're prepared'

The town council in Annapolis Royal, which only has 491 year-round residents, has asked its police chief to take another look at the provincial legislation and see how it fits within the town's jurisdiction.

The community gets 60,000 visitors during the tourist season.

"We want to make sure we're prepared," said Greg Barr, the chief administrative officer. "It will be a much bigger issue for us as we get into spring and summer."

A further handful of municipalities are now working on changes to enact their local rules.

The Municipality of the County of Colchester has a policy to keep cigarette smokers away from play areas. An ad hoc committee is recommending it be amended to include cannabis.

"That way we can put new signage up," said Crawford MacPherson, Colchester's director of community development. "And our municipal alcohol policy group has also expanded their mandate."

Going above and beyond

The town of Kentville is also considering a complete ban on cannabis use on municipal property, following in the footsteps of Halifax, Berwick and Windsor.

"It is a complete ban," said Louis Coutinho, Windsor's chief administrative officer, "So if anyone wants to smoke [tobacco or cannabis] it will have to be on private property. Everything owned by the town is off-limits."

Coutinho said  according to public health officials, 82 per cent of Nova Scotians do not smoke, so the town felt obliged to create policy to protect them.

Kentville is currently using the provincial regulations on cannabis, but that would change if local rules are developed. 

"Town council has decided to go above and beyond provincial legislation and own this issue a bit more," said Mark Phillips, the chief administrative officer.

'It's very confusing for visitors'

Some municipal officials say it could take some time before the full impact of cannabis legalization is completely understood.

"It might take years to figure out how exactly things are going to shake out," said Antigonish CAO Greg Horne.

Others have suggested that provincial consumption rules for cannabis, similar to the provincial rules in place for alcohol, could have simplified the situation.

"It's very confusing for visitors to see different rules from one community to the next," said Barr. 

"There's such a patchwork across the province."

Counties & Districts:

  • Chester: provincial rules
  • Clare: provincial rules, for now
  • Colchester: developing own rules
  • Cumberland: provincial rules
  • Digby: provincial rules
  • Guysborough: provincial rules
  • East Hants: developing own rules
  • West Hants: provincial rules
  • Inverness: provincial rules, for now
  • Kings: provincial rules
  • Lunenburg: adopted own rules
  • Pictou: provincial rules, for now
  • Richmond: provincial rules
  • Shelburne: provincial rules, for now
  • St. Mary's: provincial rules
  • Victoria: provincial rules
  • Yarmouth: provincial rules


  • Cape Breton Regional Municipality: provincial rules, for now
  • Halifax Regional Municipality: approved own rules
  • Region of Queens: approved new rules for employees, plus provincial rules, for now


  • Amherst: developing own policy
  • Annapolis Royal: provincial rules, for now
  • Antigonish: provincial rules, for now
  • Berwick: approved new local rules
  • Bridgewater: approved new local rules
  • Clark's Harbour: provincial rules
  • Digby: provincial rules
  • Kentville: developing own policy
  • Lockeport: provincial rules
  • Lunenburg: provincial rules
  • Mahone Bay: provincial rules
  • Middleton: provincial rules
  • Mulgrave: provincial rules, for now
  • New Glasgow: approved new local rules
  • Oxford: developing own policy
  • Pictou: provincial rules, for now
  • Port Hawkesbury: provincial rules, for now
  • Shelburne: provincial rules, for now
  • Stellarton: provincial rules, for now
  • Stewiacke: approved new local rules, developing more
  • Trenton: developing own policy
  • Truro: approved new local rules
  • Westville: developing own policy
  • Windsor: approved new local rules
  • Wolfville: provincial rules
  • Yarmouth: provincial rules, for now


Pam Berman


Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to


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