When Canada legalized cannabis for adults in 2018, it put industrial hemp, medical marijuana, and adult retail cannabis all within the purview of Health Canada. That agency has handled cannabis policy since industrial hemp research was first allowed there in 1994.
The national law allows adults aged 18 and older to legally possess up to 30 grams and grow up to four plants per household. Because it is legal at the federal level, in Canada, you can use your credit cards to buy cannabis in licensed stores, unlike in the USA. You do not have to be a citizen to buy or possess marijuana, so cannabis tourism is allowed.
Canada also allows provinces to set their own regulations as to how it is grown, bought, or sold, so you need to know the local rules. For example, in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, you must be 19 years old to buy and grow.
Cannabis Tourism: Montreal
Back in the day, Quebec was the province with a reputation for consuming the most hash (BC and Ontario smoked more herb). After legalization, however, Quebec was one of the provinces most resistant to the new law, banning home gardens and forbidding private sector sales. One must be at least 21 years old to purchase from a state-run shop up to an ounce per day.
Our intrepid team decided to put it to the test. Off we went to Montreal, to a downtown hotel, and found three stores within walking distance. All had the official Quebec Cannabis logo with no exterior advertising, and all had the same offerings: Sativa, indica, hybrid, extracts, edibles, and beverages. The price range was good, from relatively inexpensive to status symbol. We chatted with the knowledgeable staff, picked out some pre-rolls, an edible (limited products, low dosages), and nice herb, took it back to our room, and rolled a few more joints.
First problem: No smoking in the hotel room. We caught frequent whiffs of cannabis on the streets but wanted to get out of the wind to have a puff. At the park by the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus tour office, plenty of people were hanging out, smoking herb and vaping, so we sat on a bench and lit up.
Next problem: The joint got a bad run as the wind kicked up and clouds moved in. After a few puffs, we the joint out and tucked the roach into a tube for later. Then we hopped onto the tour bus’s upper deck and got an insightful and humorous introduction to various neighborhoods and parts of town, public artworks, and points of interest. When the rain kicked in, we moved to the lower deck. We finished the tour and, since it was still raining, went into the “underground city” — basically a shopping and dining area with some good prices but nowhere to smoke. Back at the park, it was time for another smoke, some dinner, then back to the room.
Our tickets were good for two days, so the next day we boarded the bus again, hopped off at the site of the 1967 World Expo for another smoke and to stretch our legs, then went to the park near Cirque du Soliel for another smoke and back onto the bus over to Schwartz’s Deli, where everyone said we had to try the smoked meat sandwich. Good thing we were high because that thing was massive! It was in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, the one part of Montreal where more people were speaking Yiddish than French. We had another puff, followed by pastries and hot chocolate, hopped the bus, got off some distance from the hotel, and had a long, lovely, smokey walk back. The joints ran badly, and we lost a fair amount of bud, as always seems to happen outdoors.
Next, we went to romantic Quebec City, one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities in North America. There are only four cannabis stores in town, but two were nearby, and we went to the one closest to the train station. It had the same basic signage, layout, and products as the shops in Montreal and a similarly friendly staff.
This time we bought a small pipe and adopted a park bench near our non-smoking room and the fortifications wall as our regular smoking spot. Passers-by would either overlook us or give us a knowing smile. We took a van tour of the town and a nearby waterfall and spent the next few days walking about, smoking here and there and enjoying the scenery. One of our favorite places was a park right by the magnificent Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel, where we could smoke and feel like we were in Europe. We wandered the streets, hung out at the parks, ate at the restaurants, marveled at the murals, and found plenty of places for a quick puff.
Before heading to British Columbia, we made a quick assessment of the Quebec scene. It was easy to find and get to cannabis stores in both towns we visited. The prices were reasonable, or you could splurge. The selection was varied and enjoyable. There was not a large selection of edibles, limited to low dosages or capsules. The provincial and local sights went very well with a cannabis buzz. Most of the hotels were non-smoking, but you spend most of the day out on the streets, anyway, enjoying the sights, sounds, and sensations of being in Canada. People were friendly and seemed accepting of the street cannabis smoking that was fairly pervasive.
All in all, we liked Quebec City a bit more. Montreal had more things to keep you occupied, but QC was simply gorgeous to explore and look at. Bring good walking shoes because the ride-share situation is really bad in QC, and taxis are hard to find on the streets, but the center is small enough to walk — as long as you aren’t pulling bags.
Next, we set off for British Columbia.
Photos Credit: Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris
Feature photo is cannabis products on display inside Quebec City cannabis shop
Chris Conrad has played a pivotal role in cannabis since the late 1980s, including hemp industries, marijuana legalization, medical, personal, commercial and religious use. With his wife, Mikki Norris, Conrad reframed the issue as author, publisher, strategist, organizer, educator, speaker, museum curator and consultant. He co-founded both the Hemp Industries Association and Human Rights and the Drug War, was instrumental in key voter initiatives and shaped California case law as an expert witness in cannabis consumption, cultivation, processing, etc. His latest book is The Newbie’s Guide to Cannabis and the Industry. Conrad teaches at Oaksterdam University and publishes ChrisConrad.com and theLeafOnline.com.