It’s legal to smoke marijuana in Canada, but it won’t be simple or straightforward for Americans planning to cross the border for a quick toke.
Marijuana laws can be different from one city to another, and most advertising is restricted under federal laws. That means it won’t be easy for a visitor to follow the signs to a pot store and stroll out with a lit joint a few minutes later.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has also reminded citizens that marijuana remains illegal in the U.S. and that those caught at the border with pot will be subject to arrest and prosecution.
Here’s what Americans need to know about taking advantage of legal marijuana in Canada.
You must be 19 years of age or older to buy marijuana in most Canadian provinces, except in Alberta and Quebec, where the minimum age is 18. You must show valid photo identification either in-store or to the delivery person if ordering your marijuana online.
You can’t bring weed back to the U.S.
If you’re living in Detroit, you won’t be able to cross over to Windsor, Ont., and buy a few joints to bring home for the weekend.
It’s illegal to cross the U.S.-Canada border with any amount of marijuana in your possession, whether the marijuana is in your pocket, in your car, on your boat or in your airline luggage. It does not matter whether the destination state has legalized marijuana. Offenders can face up to 14 years in a Canadian prison.
It’s also impossible at this point to buy legal marijuana from a retailer in Windsor because Ontario won’t have licensed marijuana stores until April.
Buying it legally
Ontario is the only province where marijuana is not yet sold at a brick-and-mortar retail store. Every other province has some form of in-person sales, meaning you can buy marijuana during a quick visit. These stores are either private or run by the provincial liquor board.
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For those who do travel to Ontario, you can buy marijuana online. You just need to wait around for a few days and keep your identification handy for when the delivery person shows up.
Those who visit pot-friendly British Columbia might also be disappointed. The province only had one retail store open for business on Day 1 of legalization, in the city of Kamloops.
It’s illegal under Canada’s Cannabis Act to knowingly buy illicit marijuana.
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You can legally purchase cannabis in fresh, dried, plant, oil or seed form. Edibles and extracts won’t legally go on sale until next year. However, it’s legal to make your own edibles.
It’s illegal to carry any more than 30 grams of dried marijuana or its equivalent in other forms. Refer to the federal government’s guidelines for specifics.
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Each province is allowed to set its own price on marijuana, meaning it can vary widely from one region to another.
Finding a legal place to smoke
The safest place to smoke legal marijuana in Canada is at home, but that doesn’t help if you’re just visiting to enjoy a joint.
The laws around where you can smoke marijuana are different for every province and city. The only way to avoid a hefty ticket (in the hundreds of dollars) is to look up cannabis laws for the specific city you intend to visit.
Does the city allow cannabis consumption in public? If so, where?
Some cities and provinces don’t allow any public consumption of marijuana. Others allow it in designated smoking areas. Some permit it in public, but not around children.
The only legal place to smoke marijuana anywhere in Canada is at a private residence unless it’s banned by a condo board. That means a Canadian friend could invite you to his or her home to legally smoke.
Know the rules before you visit to avoid wasting your trip.
Don’t smoke in the car
It’s illegal to use marijuana and drive in Canada. Some provinces have also outlawed consuming marijuana in a moving vehicle, regardless of whether you’re a driver or passenger.
In other words, if you’re heading to Canada to smoke, make sure you have a designated driver to bring you home – and that the car doesn’t smell like weed when you cross the border. That could arouse the suspicion of U.S. customs officials.
American citizens will not be blocked from re-entering the U.S. if they are caught with marijuana at the border, but they will run into legal trouble considering it is illegal to do so, according to Christopher Perry, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“If you’ve smoked marijuana or we believe that there would be marijuana in the car, a U.S. citizen would be subject to secondary inspection and potential prosecution,” Perry told reporters in Detroit on Wednesday.
He added that U.S. border officers won’t start asking more questions about marijuana use.
“We don’t anticipate asking routine questions about marijuana use,” he said.