Whether you’re in love with Mary Jane, or think the whole country has gone to pot, non-medical cannabis is now legal across Canada

As of October 17, 2018, B.C. bud fans aged 19 or older can legally buy cannabis via BC Cannabis Stores for non-medical consumption. If you’re new to the world of weed, here is a quick 101 on what it is, what it does, and where you can buy it...


What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant. The flower of the female plant is picked, trimmed, dried and cured to be sold as bud (aka whole dried flower), or it is milled into a fine consistency for pre-rolled joints, or processed into a concentrate/extract and added to oils or capsules.

What are sativa and indica?

There’s some debate about whether cannabis is one species (Cannabis sativa) or several, but it’s generally understood that there are at least two subspecies, which include Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. These two classifications have commonly been used to indicate expected effects (sativa is seen as uplifting and indica is regarded as causing a stoned feeling) but hybridization and cross-breeding means that it’s hard to find a pure indica or sativa anymore.

Indica and sativa are different in terms of origin and plant structure. Sativa (meaning "cultivated") grows tall and thin and came from warmer tropical climates. Indica ("of India") is shorter and squatter and comes from harsher climates where it had to grow strong and low to the ground.

What are THC and CBD?

The blossoming legal cannabis industry is moving away from indica/sativa classifications and focusing more on cannabinoids and terpenes. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are two chemical compounds (cannabinoids) found within cannabis. There are hundreds of compounds within the plant, but these are the two that will have the most effect on your experience.

Cannabinoids are found within the trichomes (glands) on the flower of the cannabis plants and this is why the bud is the prized part of the plant. Cannabis has to be decarboxylated (heated up) to be activatedotherwise the THC and CBD are just inactive acids within the plant.

Cannabinoids work with the body’s endocannabinoid system to interact with cell receptors in the body and brain that control everything from appetite to memory, keeping everything in balance. THC is the intoxicating cannabinoid that creates the feeling of being high; CBD is its non-intoxicating counterpart. Both are psychoactive (in that they work with the brain to create certain effects) but CBD won’t get you stoned. CBD is causing a major buzz in the wellness world as companies from beauty manufacturers to soft-drink brands are jumping on the CBD bandwagon.

Newcomers to cannabis might opt for high-CBD (4 percent or higher) products that are low in THC. Start low, go slow is the golden rule when it comes to cannabis. Anyone who has munched on a big old magic brownie can attest to the fact that anything you ingest (from oils to edibles) can take up to a few hours to take effectstart with a small amount and be patient. Just because you can’t feel anything yet doesn’t mean that it’s not workingit has to go through the digestive system first and this can take a while. Smoking or vaping provides quicker results, usually within a few minutes.

What are terpenes?

It’s not just THC/CBD that can inform the experienceterpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in plants and are believed to work in an ‘entourage effect’ with cannabinoids to create certain effects. Terpenes act as part of the plant’s defense system to ward off pests. There are around 200 known terpenes in cannabis and they have distinctive smells that you might recognize from other plants.

For example, linalool is also found in lavender and is thought to be calming. Limonene is found in citrus fruits and is considered to be uplifting and cleansing (that’s why it appears in so many cleaning products). Ditto for pinene (yes, it’s found in pine), which is thought of as refreshing and is a key reason why the Japanese believe that ‘forest bathing’ is so beneficialthese aromas help to create a feeling of being revived.

Look out for the terpenes in cannabismyrcene is a terpene that’s found in fruit such as mango and it’s thought to create a mellow, sleepy effect. Many indicas contain myrcene and sativas tend to have higher levels of limonene so this may contribute to the perceived effects of the two plant types.

What kind of cannabis can I buy?

Dried flower, pre-rolled joints, oils, capsules and seeds are all now legal for adults aged 19 or older. Non-medical cannabis edibles and concentrates (for vaping, etc.) are not legal yet, but are likely to also be legalized within the next year.

B.C.’s cannabis is coming from 32 licensed producers that are growing it across Canada (including a lot of local B.C. growers), with more joining later in the year. Products are lab-tested and labelled with THC/CBD content and checked for contaminants such as mold.

How much can I buy?

The federal Cannabis Act allows adults to have possession (in a public place) of up to 30 grams of dried flower or the equivalent in pre-rolled joints, oils, capsules and seeds. Most joints are half or one gram amounts and seeds count as one gram each… so that 30-gram purchase and possession limit is pretty high. Each household can grow up to four cannabis plants, as long as they are out of view and you’re not running a childcare out of your home (no little buddies allowed). If you want to start your own cannabis collection at home then B.C.’s Cannabis Control & Licensing Act allows up to 1000 grams of dried flower or equivalent in a private place.

Where can I buy it?

Non-medical cannabis is sold via BC Cannabis Stores (the only legal place to buy it online in B.C.), at BC Cannabis Stores (so far just the one in Kamloops’ Columbia Shopping Centre) and at licensed cannabis retailers. Many of the grey market dispensaries/cannabis stores have closed down to apply for a legal licence, so these should be opening/reopening soon across the province.

Where can I consume it?

At home is the short answer, although this will depend on your lease and strata. If you’re currently allowed to smoke/vape tobacco at home, then cannabis will also be allowed, but new leases can state that non-medical cannabis consumption is not permitted. You can smoke/vape cannabis anywhere that tobacco smoking/vaping is currently allowedunless it’s close to where kids might gatherso schools, skate parks and recreation centres, for example, have extra restrictions. You also can’t consume cannabis in your vehicle, even if it’s stationaryand there are heavy fines/penalties for driving while impaired.

For more information about potential health risks, visit Health Canada’s cannabis website.