British Columbia’s Cannabis Legalization Laws

Recognizing federal legalization of nonmedical cannabis in Canada on October 17th, 2018, the BC NDP government has made several changes to our provincial laws, showing what regulations cannabis users will need to follow. Canadians will have basic regulations to follow nationally, although due to the federal government downloading responsibilities to the provinces, each province will have different sets of rules for themselves, causing 13 different set of cannabis laws to take effect, via separate legislation from each province. Amendments to BC law regarding cannabis are however not limited to the newly Cannabis Control and Licensing Act and Cannabis Distribution Act, there are modifications to the Motor Vehicle Act, Police Act, Community Safety Act and the Residential Tenancy Act as well.

Understanding our new Cannabis laws will take some reading and time to know what the new laws are. Essentially in order to legalize cannabis in Canada, the federal government had to make it a provincial matter in order to satisfy international contracts Canada has with numerous countries. Accordingly, each province will have federal guidelines to follow, while having their own provincial laws as each province will share its profits with the federal government, all the while 13 differing cannabis laws are created.

BC Motor Vehicle Act changes

New changes in the Motor Vehicle Act include providing police with greater responsibilities as new drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program have zero tolerance for THC. Drivers with a regular class 5 license will face a 90 day prohibition from driving if caught under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Confusion looms as to exactly what the new police drug recognition expert, DRE, programs involves or how many officers will be trained under this program, furthermore details about how bodily fluids will be collected are limited.

Cannabis Control and Licensing Act

Considering the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, CCLA, contains specific regulations, it is simplest to share the British Columbia’s government cannabis press release.


The Act:

  • Sets 19 as the provincial minimum age to purchase sell or consume cannabis;
  • Allows adults to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in a public place;
  • Prohibits cannabis smoking and vaping everywhere tobacco smoking and vaping are prohibited, as well as at playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, and other places where children commonly gather;
  • Prohibits the use of cannabis on school properties and in vehicles;
  • Authorizes adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but the plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property, and home cultivation will be banned in homes used as day-cares;
  • Establishes a cannabis retail licensing regime similar to the current licensing regime for liquor;
  • Provides enforcement authority to deal with illegal sales;
  • Creates a number of provincial cannabis offences which may result in a fine ranging from $2,000 to $100,000, imprisonment of three to 12 months, or both; and
  • Where necessary, to comply with Charter Rights and human rights law, exemptions will provide to individuals who are federally authorized to purchase, possess and consume medical cannabis.

The CCLA also includes consequential amendments to various statutes, including:

  • Liquor Control and Licensing Act to ensure administrative consistency between that Act and the CCLA;
  • Residential Tenancy Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act to prohibit cannabis smoking under existing leases that prohibit smoking tobacco and to prohibit the personal cultivation of cannabis under existing leases, except for federally authorized medical cannabis. For new leases, the existing provisions of each Act that allow landlords and tenants to negotiate the terms of leases will apply;
  • Police Act to set provincial priorities for policing and require municipal police boards to take provincial priorities and the priorities of the municipal council into account as they develop their own priorities;
  • Community Safety Act to reflect that with legalization cannabis will no longer be a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act;
  • Provincial Sales Tax Act to add a reference to cannabis in the definition of “small seller” consistent with liquor; and
  • Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act to recognize that the CCLA is a complete licensing scheme.”

Government Monopoly of Wholesale Cannabis Distribution

Additionally, the Cannabis Control Act establishes a government monopoly on wholesale cannabis distribution, creating control of retail sales, covering both in store and online sales. Advocates claim these regulations are unjust as they limit who can distribute cannabis, essentially cutting out small scale craft growers. Wholesale sales of cannabis and licensing will be controlled under the provinces newly created Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, or LCRB, while the current Liquor Distribution Branch, or LDB, gains auxiliary powers to distribute cannabis to approve permit holders. Complete licensing information requires an entirely separate article to cover all the details.