Illegal vs. Legal Cannabis

January 25, 2022

We all know cannabis is legal in Canada, so many of us may assume that means all cannabis purchased from anywhere. Not so. There are actually quite a few rules on how you must purchase and share cannabis with adults in Canada, and for some, finding and understanding where to obtain your Health Canada-approved recreational cannabis can be confusing. If you Google, “purchasing cannabis Canada” you will be flooded with options and while many may look professional and seem to operate just as you expect, you’d be surprised to find out many of these online sources are actually illegal, meaning purchasing from them is against the law.

What is illegal cannabis?

What do we mean by illegal cannabis? First, let’s start with some nuance. Every Canadian has the right to grow four cannabis plants at home (unless you live in Manitoba). Cannabis we grow at home is generally considered legal, and it is also legal for any adult over the age of 18 to share up to 30 grams of cannabis or equivalency (just because for ex a 1g vape = 4d dried cannabis. The keyword is ‘share’. The moment we accept payment for cannabis, it technically becomes an illegal transaction.

How is legal cannabis identified?

All cannabis purchased at a licensed cannabis store will be sealed with a provincial duty seal, specific to the province where you purchased your cannabis product. If your cannabis does not have a tax duty seal on it—even if you purchased it from a store–it is considered illegal.

 The easiest way to know if you are in a licensed cannabis store is all of the cannabis will be held in opaque jars regulated containers and must be affixed with a duty seal.

If you enter a cannabis store and they have large jars of bud that you can see into, or that are open for viewing and scenting, you may be in an unlicensed cannabis store.

Cannabis purchased with a duty seal from a licensed cannabis store must have a couple key things listed on the packaging;

- There must be a THC stop sign on the package, larger or equal to the brand names or logos. There must be a large yellow warning on the front.

- The package must show the amount of THC and CBD contained in the cannabis. These results will have come from a Health Canada-approved lab that also tests for microbial elements, heavy metals, mold and pesticides.

- On the back of your package you will always see a batch number, package date and the licensed producer who holds the sales license to distribute the product.

If even one of these items is missing from a package you bought at a cannabis store; your cannabis probably isn’t legal.

 

Table 2: Immediate container requirements

Cannabis Regulations reference

Requirement

Notes

1(2)
122.4(1)(b)

Cannot contain more than one class of cannabis

  • As set out in Schedule 4 to the Act

Applies to the outermost container as well.

108(b),(c)
110(a)

Prevent contamination of the cannabis

  • The container must keep dried cannabis and cannabis seeds dry

Does not apply to cannabis plants.

108(a)

Be opaque or translucent

Does not apply to cannabis plants and seeds.

108(e)

Be child resistant

  • Meet the requirements set out in C.01.001(2) to (4) of the FDR

Does not apply to cannabis plants and seeds.

108(d)

Have a security feature

  • Provides reasonable assurance to consumers that the package has not been opened prior to purchase (e.g., security seal)

Does not apply to cannabis plants and seeds.

108(f)
109
110(b)

Not exceed the maximum amount of cannabis

  • Cannot contain more than the equivalent of 30 g of dried cannabis
  • The container holding cannabis plants cannot be flowering or budding at time of packaging and contain more than four plants

With the exception of cannabis plants, refer to Schedule 3 to the Act for equivalency values for different cannabis classes.

96(1)
97(1)
97(2)
101.2
102.7

Not exceed the maximum THC quantity

  • The container holding cannabis topicals or cannabis extracts cannot have a quantity of THC that exceeds 1,000 mg
  • Subject to the variability limits, the container holding edible cannabis cannot have a quantity of THC that exceeds 10 mg
  • Subject to the variability limits, each discrete unit of cannabis intended for ingestion, nasal, rectal, or vaginal use cannot have a quantity of THC that exceeds 10 mg

The quantity of THC mentioned here takes into account the potential to convert THCA into THC.

122.3
122.5

Control measures for cannabis extracts not in discrete units

  • Container must not permit the extract to be easily poured or drunk
  • If the container contains liquid cannabis extract, it cannot contain more than 90 ml
  • If the container contains liquid cannabis extract with greater than 10 mg THC not intended for inhalation, it must have an integrated dispensing mechanism (e.g., pump or metered spray for a bottle) that does not dispense more than 10 mg of THC per activation

The quantity of THC mentioned here takes into account the potential to convert THCA into THC. Cannabis extract in liquid form mentioned here must be at

Online retailers: how to tell a reputable seller

Today the majority of cannabis bricks-and-mortar stores are legal, licensed businesses selling Health Canada-approved cannabis. Where validity begins to become tricky is when you start ordering cannabis online.

Ordering cannabis online is completely legal as long as you order from a provincial government-approved website, and coopcannabis.com is one of those approved and reputable sites which offers online ordering and local pickup. This will soon change with new rules coming in to play with stores being able to offer delivery services, but at the time of writing this, all the provincially-approved bodies are still providing cannabis sales direct-to-consumer through a special mail order service.

To order cannabis from a provincial retailer you will need to create an account and prove your identity and age, and your cannabis will be delivered to your home address. Many illegal websites will make you do the same identity verification, so don’t be fooled by the cheap prices and a flashy website since it’s never worth getting a letter that your package has been seized. To know for sure you are purchasing regulated cannabis, ordering from approved websites is the best guarantee.

How do I know which cannabis vendors I can trust?

It can be challenging as a new cannabis consumer to understand who you can trust. With cannabis stores on every corner we instantly assume they must all be operating within the scope of the law. Similarly, when we hear that cannabis is “legalized” we assume that means all cannabis products, which is unfortunately not true.

Find a great local cannabis store under a banner you know and trust already for other purchases, like Co-op Cannabis. Your local Co-op has been around for decades, so you know you can trust the Co-op Cannabis brand too. Visit Co-op cannabis stores for high quality products and accessories, paired with trusted advice from knowledgeable experts.

Ask questions to feel confident in your neighbourhood Co-op dispensary, or elsewhere. When ordering online don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the number listed on the website.

Legitimate organizations like dispensaries that offer delivery services will be able to answer any questions you may have and can even provide you proof they are licensed entities. Illicit cannabis companies are much less likely to be able to provide you answers that make you feel safe and secure in your purchase.

Simply put: If your cannabis came in an opaque jar that presented crucial information and was sealed with a duty seal, your cannabis is legal. If you had a small amount of cannabis shared with you from an adult friend, it is also legal. If you exchange money for cannabis with anyone without a duty seal on it, it has become unregulated cannabis.

All this may sound daunting, the easiest way to know more about your cannabis is to find a reputable local cannabis dispensary, introduce yourself and ask questions until you don’t have any more. Budtenders are the stewards of cannabis legalization and they are happy to help you feel comfortable, safe and proud of your cannabis purchases.

Please Note: This information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health or legal advice. This general information is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional, not is it intended to provide legal guidance. Any information, advice, or suggestions given by Calgary Co-op staff is not a replacement for medical advice from your Doctor, Dentist, professional Practitioner or legal representative. Consult with your health or legal professional with any questions you may have.

 

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