There are many ways to get stoned – smoke, vape, dabs, edibles – and even more places to get your cannabis in Canada. The legal weed market is fraught with issues, but there’s also a lot more people buying weed online than ever before. Some Canadians are hesitant to buy their marijuana online because they’re unsure of the legalities, or maybe they’re new to cannabis in general. Fret not, for we are here to guide you through the world wide weed web and help you understand the ins-and-outs of buying cannabis online in Canada.
It’s the dawn of a new cannabis era: Federally legalized recreational and medical marijuana. Across the great nation of Canada, cannabis consumers breathed a sigh of relief on October 17, 2018 when The Cannabis Act came into full effect; one year later on October 17, 2019 edibles, concentrates and other forms of cannabis also became Federally approved. Since that fateful day in October 2018, the world has watched Canada with a close eye – curiosity about the first G7 country in the world to legalize cannabis at a Federal level has spurred on others to consider legalizing this misclassified “drug”, such as Mexico, Thailand and many others. The United States removed Hemp from its controlled substances list, thereby legalizing Hemp cultivation and all its subsequent products (such as Hemp CBD). Through the lens of cannabis, the world of 2020 is looking like a vastly different place compared to the past century of marijuana oppression… and this is just the beginning.
Many Canadians are waking up to this new epoch of legal cannabis and trying it for the first time, while many others have a long-standing history with this one-of-a-kind plant. There is a lot of criticism over the success of The Cannabis Act and whether or not it’s made a positive impact on marijuana in Canada. Due to supply shortages, quality issues, and a host of bad press for Licensed Producers and government run online retail many Canadians have given up on the realm of “legal cannabis” and returned to their former, black market sources for marijuana. How could this have happened? There are always risks associated with being the pioneer who sets the standards – Canada is the first G7 country to Federally legalize cannabis, both medically and recreationally. The “curse of being first” definitely has its hurtles to overcome, and legalizing cannabis has been no exception.
Chief among the reasons for people looking elsewhere for a quality cannabis product is the lack of convenience and availability – a direct result of the few number of retail stores. The application process for cultivators and retailers alike was slow, to say the least. In BC, for example, only a single store in the interior of the province was approved and open for business when cannabis became officially legal on October 17th in 2018. Today, retail outlets are opening up at a regular pace, but for many Canadians it’s “too little, too late”. Many people have turned to e-commerce sites for their weekly fix of weed, and for good reasons: the prices are fair, the selection is vast, and most importantly the quality of the cannabis is consistent and as advertised. When Canadians buy their marijuana online, they’re receiving the potent cannabis they need at a cost that isn’t eye-popping. To put it in perspective, the average price of cannabis online is around $5-8 per gram, whereas the legal-market marijuana has been purchased anywhere from $15-20+ for the same amount! Those are jaw-dropping numbers, and not in a good way. Add to this the persistent problems of poor quality, the restrictions on promotions, and a limited inventory of strains and it appears that the legal cannabis market has dug itself into a deep hole.
If it sounds advantageous to you to look for better cannabis prices, better quality buds and more variety of products online, you’re not alone in thinking so. Many Canadians rely on buying their weed online, but what about the legalities of doing so? Is it safe? Are there any risks to purchasing from online dispensaries in Canada? We are here to show you the scope of the online weed world, and overview what you should be on the lookout for, both good and bad. When you buy marijuana online in Canada, you should be getting the best prices, the most convenient shopping experience, and access to consistently superior cannabis products. So fire up your favorite internet browser, and let’s get shopping!
BEFORE YOU SHOP, KNOW THE BASICS
The modern shopper of today has access to just about everything you could ever need or want, and with ‘Free Shipping’ to boot! Revolutionary companies like Amazon have driven e-commerce to unthinkable heights – you can purchase your groceries online, have them delivered within 24 hours, and spend more time with family or doing what you love. Shopping online has created a positive time surplus for many Canadians, especially when you consider factors like Christmas shopping, the poor weather conditions in winter, and the physical and mental toll that perusing through each individual store can take. For many of us, the only time we’re spending in retail stores these days is to get a coffee, try on clothing, or to kill some time. In all of these examples, the urgency to make a purchase is no longer as prevalent as it used to be; many Canadians will check out what’s new at the mall, but when it comes to actually making their purchases they’ll wait until they’re home and buy it online. The prices, the deals, the inventory selections, they’re all a step-up and just a click away on e-commerce sites. There are some who have disdain for online shopping due to its significant ecological footprint (shipping, excess packaging, etc) but nonetheless e-commerce is here to stay, and it’s how the majority of Canadians choose to get their goods.
Shopping for cannabis online is no different from everyday commodities – convenience and cost dominate people’s needs. Marijuana is unique in that it is both a commodity and a medicine, so there are varying degrees of quality, consistency, variety and availability requirements. Regardless of why you need cannabis in your life, you expect a certain combination of effects, specific looks or tastes, and the promise of value. Legal cannabis is intended to be a safe, one-stop shop for all your cannabis needs but they are not yet caught up to Canadians’ needs. With all cannabis products legalized today – flowers, edibles, concentrates, extracts, cannabis topicals – there is much more to choose from, so now is an excellent time to experiment and test out what kind of marijuana products work best for you. What kind of cannabis potency or cannabinoid concentrations do you need? Understanding the differences between THC and CBD, how much is ideal for you, and what form of cannabis you should consume to optimize the benefits can be an undertaking.
What do you need to know about shopping online for cannabis in Canada? Here’s some of the basics you need to know about legal marijuana and how to manage it.
You can legally grow four cannabis plants at home (4 plants per dwelling). As per The Cannabis Act & Cannabis Regulations, each residence (note that they do not say each “person”) is allowed to cultivate up to four cannabis plants for their own personal/medical use. There are limits beyond the plant count that you should be aware of, such as the 1 Kg (1000 grams) limit that your four plants can produce (final harvested, dried product). It is also imperative to know the requirements for keeping your plants secure and other safe in your household. According the guidelines set out by the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations), it is the duty of the person(s) cultivating their four plants to ensure the security and restricted access to their cannabis (especially from youth).
Plants grown at home must be from registered seeds or clone providers, and you must ensure that the fertilizers, chemicals and growing mediums used are approved in your region. If you are growing cannabis outdoors on your own property, you need to make sure your plants are not visible within public access (from the road or a place where the general public can see them), but this does not apply to your immediate neighbors. Additionally, your cannabis cannot be easily accessible or share any points of access with any public property, such as schools, public parks or places where individuals under the age of 18 are known to congregate. Indoor cannabis growers need not worry about this aspect of public visibility/access, but you need to ensure that there is adequate ventilation to prevent moisture, mold or potentially harmful chemicals or gases from building up in your dwelling. Disposing of your cannabis waste (leftover plant material) must also be done in a certain manner. After you have harvested, you must dilute the remaining plant material with water and an inert agent such as cat litter, to neutralize the odors. The excess cannabis plant material can then be disposed of through your municipal waste system. An important caveat to remember: if your plants produce more dried flowers than the allotted 1000 grams, it is your legal duty to destroy the extra cannabis either by incineration or the dilution-litter method.
Is growing cannabis at home the same across the country? Unfortunately, certain provinces are more favorable for personal cultivation than others. Federally speaking, the Canadian Cannabis Act allows four plants to be cultivated per domicile, but some provinces and territories have additional restrictions. Quebec, for instance, does not allow personal cultivation nor does the province allow possession of cannabis plants. This has been deemed draconian by other provinces, and it is a direct challenge to The Cannabis Act, but it is how the Quebec government has chosen to move forward. On the less restrictive side, British Columbia has instituted provisions for personal cultivation, such as more strict penalties for growing cannabis in a place where the public can see/access your cannabis. The last outlier is the province of Manitoba, where a medical cannabis license is required to grow cannabis at home – a simple, but unavoidable extra step that their Provincial gov’t put into place. The rest of the provinces and territories have not modified the Federal regulations, as of the writing of this article.
No matter how you grow, it’s important to be cognizant of the risks of cultivating cannabis – such as theft, power and water requirements, and the equipment required when cultivating your own cannabis. Insurance companies may not include cannabis coverage at this time, because it is so new in Canada, so make sure you check with your home insurance provider before you start planting seeds.
How much cannabis can you possess in Canada? 30 grams of dried cannabis flowers, or the equivalent value (more on that later) is the Federally mandated possession limit in Canada. In Canada, the approved age for cannabis consumption is 19, but two provinces (Quebec & Alberta) have modified the restricted age to 18 years old. It is allowable to share up to 30 grams of cannabis flowers or equivalent with another adult of legal age, as long as doing so would not put that person over their legal limit of 30 grams. You can possess any combination of cannabis products, as long as the the total amount does not exceed the 30 grams of dried flower or equivalent.
What are the equivalent values of cannabis you can legally possess? The following list of cannabis categories is approved for possession and use, and are considered to be equivalent to 1 gram of dried cannabis flowers:
- 5 grams of fresh cannabis
- 15 grams of edible product
- 70 grams of liquid product
- 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
- 1 cannabis plant seed
This means that for every type of cannabis product, you are allowed 30 x the equivalent value ( i.e. 30 grams of cannabis dried flowers = 150 grams of fresh cannabis). The following table shows the approved possession amounts for each category of cannabis:
- 30 grams of dried cannabis flowers
- 150 grams of fresh cannabis
- 450 grams/ml of edible/drinkable products
- 2100 grams/ml of liquid product
- 7.5 grams/ml of concentrates (solid or liquid)
- 30 cannabis plant seed
You can purchase these products in the allowable amounts online, in stores or you can produce your own at home, as long as no organic solvents or unapproved processing products are used. It should be obvious that it is strictly prohibited to produce cannabis with the intention of distributing or selling, without a license to do so. Another obvious caveat is that it is unlawful to involve a person(s) under the legal age of 19 (or 18 in Quebec or Alberta) in the cultivation of cannabis or the production of cannabis products. With that being said, let’s look at a few of the penalties as a result of violating these and other terms of The Cannabis Act:
|Possession over the limit|| |
|Illegal distribution or sale|| |
|Producing cannabis over personal cultivation limits or using combustible solvents|| |
|Taking cannabis across Canada’s borders|| |
|Giving or selling cannabis to a person under 18|| |
|Using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence|| |
What kind of licenses are there for cannabis? If you have a demonstrable medical need for cannabis, specifically to improve or maintain a certain quality of life, then the Canadian Gov’t has continued the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations). Canadians who require cannabis for medical purposes can still purchase marijuana from approved distributors (online, retailers), but if you require greater volumes of cannabis to treat an injury or condition then an ACMPR license is the route you should take. There are other licenses you can acquire (commercial cultivation, processing, analytical research, distribution and sale) but for this article we will focus on the ACMPR.
With an ACMPR license, you can purchase greater quantities of cannabis from approved sources, and cultivate a larger number of plants (and produce a great volume of cannabis) for your own personal use. If you are unable to cultivate your own due to poor health or a lack of knowledge/ability, you can designate someone to cultivate cannabis on your behalf – as long as they are fit to do so (19+) and also possess a medical license. Since legalization in October of 2018, the ACMPR has undergone amendments to ensure it is up-to-date and compliant with the Cannabis Act & Regulations. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on two major areas of the ACMPR: accessing medical cannabis from approved sources, and cultivating personal cannabis for medical purposes.
Accessing cannabis for medical purposes requires an ACMPR license, which has application and registration fees, but the additional allotments of cannabis (both in terms of potency and volume) are well worth the upfront costs. Under the amended ACMPR regulations, a license holder is able to:
- Purchase and possess an increased volume of cannabis (in all its forms), in the amounts of 60 – 150 grams (as prescribed by their health practitioner). These increased possession limits are based on “per day” cannabis prescriptions, such as 2 grams of cannabis per day x 30 days = 60 grams
- The possession and consumption amounts set out in your ACMPR are in addition to the Federal 30 grams possession limit, so if your prescription is for 120 grams you may also possess the standard 30 grams as well, bringing your total per 30 days to 150 grams
- As a license holder, you have access to more potent cannabis products from Federally regulated producers, in addition to a greater variety of cannabis products for medical purposes. More competitively priced products, registered license agreements with certain producers (LP’s, Micros) and increased accessibility to cannabis are some of the major advantages of being a license holder
Cultivating cannabis for personal, medical use is covered within the ACMPR as well. For those patients who have a greater need for access to cannabis in their daily lives, the ACMPR enables a person to cultivate more than the usual four plants per dwelling. Similar to the “per day” prescription, the ACMPR grants a person additional plants to cultivate and harvest, both indoor and outdoor. For example, if a person has been prescribed 6 grams of cannabis per day (180 grams per 30 days), then they would allowed to cultivate 22 x indoor cannabis plants + 6 x outdoor cannabis plants. If someone were to choose only indoor cultivation, then the same prescription would allow 30 indoor cannabis plants for that person’s license. There is a helpful cannabis formula tool on the Canadian Government’s website whereby you can estimate what plant counts you will receive with certain “per day” usage limits.
LET’S GET SHOPPING: Buying Cannabis Online in Canada
Now that we’ve covered the basis of cannabis legality in Canada, it’s time for the fun part: shopping. When you’re looking to buy legal weed online in Canada, there’s two major options for you: cannabis online dispensaries, or government run e-commerce. Every province has a its own sources for buying legal cannabis, such as the Liquor Distribution Board in BC, or the Government of Ontario in their province. Almost every province and territory has Government operated online sales, except for Manitoba and Saskatchewan who are privately operated. There is a significant push in many provinces for dual-operation – private and government operated e-commerce – but for now the provinces and territories have committed to moving forward with their current models for cannabis distribution.
Many cannabis consumers have run into quality issues, delivery problems or poorly priced items when it comes to government operated online sales. A growing number of Canadians are very dissatisfied with the current regime of cannabis e-commerce, so they have turned to many of the “grey market” online dispensaries. There are hundreds of online cannabis providers in Canada, and many of them have experienced a serious influx of customers since legalization. When asked about why they chose to make the switch, many consumers sited these reasons for buying weed online from dispensaries:
- Vastly different (cheaper) prices per gram
- Significant variety of dried cannabis flowers, oils, concentrates, extracts and edibles
- Better quality and consistency of products, across all product categories
- Increased THC & CBD content
- Free shipping incentives for larger orders, speedier delivery, hassle-free shopping experience
- Discounts, promotional sales and further reductions in prices
It appears that the average cannabis consumer is relying on private online cannabis providers rather than invest in the government operated ones. But what does the future hold for online cannabis sales? With the recent amendments to the Cannabis Act to include edibles, concentrates and topicals, there are many more marijuana products that will be hitting the shelves (online and in stores) over the coming months. Will government provided edibles help to boost their provincial/territorial cannabis sales? Or will online dispensaries continue to lead the way across Canada? Only time will tell, and only you – the cannabis consumer – can determine how the markets take shape in the battle between government operated distributors and private online retailers.
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When you’re looking to buy weed online in Canada, there are many government distributors and online dispensaries to choose from. Just like your marijuana needs are different from your neighbors, which supply of cannabis you choose can have a significant impact on your satisfaction. Are you just curious about cannabis, and getting into it for the first time? The government operations online provide a small selection of lower potency products that might be perfect for anyone starting out (or getting back to consuming cannabis). Maybe you’re a more seasoned stoner, and you know exactly what you need: high-potency, specific strains, and a lot of it. If this sounds like you, the legal online dispensaries in Canada are the way to go – vast inventory of different strains, cannabis products, and at fair market prices you won’t find anywhere else.
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