Dear Herb: Where can I use my medical cannabis oil after legalization?
Where do provincial rules about cannabis consumption leave a legal medical cannabis user?
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/04/2018 (1751 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dear Herb: In your answer to Cannabis Camper, you indicated Ontario won’t allow cannabis consumption in public places, workplaces and vehicles. Reference is made to vaping and smoking.
What about using edible cannabis oil — and what does this mean for those who are currently registered medical marijuana users? Does this mean medical marijuana users now are to be trapped in their homes or go unmedicated? — Worried About Where I Can Medicate
Dear Worried: Good question. All of the coming provincial restrictions on where people can use cannabis after legalization suggest legally registered medical cannabis users such as yourself might face trouble for using their medication outside of the house, even if they’re not smoking or vaping it.
I put your question to Health Canada, and their spokeswoman told me the answer depends on the jurisdiction.
"It would be up to each individual province or territory to determine exemptions for medical users from any restrictions on where cannabis could be consumed," wrote the spokeswoman in an email.
"For example, Ontario has placed restrictions on consuming cannabis (by any means) in public places. However, authorized medical users are exempt from these rules provided that they comply with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (which places certain restrictions on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped).
"In federally regulated places, the proposed Cannabis Act would amend the Non-smokers’ Health Act to prohibit smoking or vaping cannabis in identified places where smoking or vaping tobacco is prohibited (for example, on airplanes). This prohibition would apply equally to persons smoking or vaping cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes."
I examined all the available provincial laws and frameworks on your behalf, and included some details and links below. (As usual, some caveats here: Your pal Herb is not a lawyer, and in some cases these laws don’t yet exist, are subject to change or could include future regulations.)
Some provinces are definitely aware of the need to accommodate medical cannabis users — many of these laws include explicit exemptions for where medical cannabis users can vape or smoke — but it looks to me like these laws don’t say much about where legal medical cannabis users can or can’t use ingestible cannabis oil.
Eventually, some medical cannabis user somewhere in Canada will have a disagreement with local authorities about where they can use their cannabis, and it might end up in court. Federal courts in Canada have generally supported the rights of Canadians to access cannabis for medical purposes, and the outcome of such a case could clarify all this confusion.
Alberta’s current framework for where cannabis consumption will be allowed makes no mention of medical cannabis.
British Columbia’s framework specifically says smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in certain areas, which suggests to me there will be an exception for legal medical cannabis users who want to smoke or vape.
Manitoba’s Cannabis Harm Prevention Act and Non-Smokers Health Protection and Vapour Products Amendment Act don’t specify any exceptions for medical cannabis users — but those acts deal with smoking and vaping, not oil.
New Brunswick’s Bill 16 creates a fairly clear exception for "medical-use cannabis," but that exception won’t apply to medical cannabis use in vehicles or in a place where smoking is prohibited under (New Brunswick’s) Smoke-free Places Act.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s framework says nothing on the topic of allowed places of use for medical cannabis.
Northwest Territories’ Bill 6 "does not apply to the sale, distribution, possession or consumption of cannabis for… medical purposes under the authority of applicable federal law."
Nova Scotia’s Bill 108 won’t apply to "an activity in connection with medical-use cannabis," except for in vehicles, where no person shall consume cannabis, including medical-use cannabis.
Nunavut’s Bill 3 appears to make considerations for "cannabis obtained for medical purposes in accordance with applicable laws of Canada."
Ontario’s Bill 174 will theoretically allow medical cannabis users to consume in public spaces subject to any prohibitions or restrictions set out in future regulations or the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017. That act, however, places a series of restrictions on where people could smoke medical cannabis, including enclosed public spaces and cars (search the text of the act for "medical cannabis" for all the details — there are a few exceptions).
Prince Edward Island’s Bill 29 excepts medical cannabis from provincial law in most cases, except for the prohibitions on using it in vehicles, but prohibitions on cannabis smoking in the province’s Smoke-free Places Act would still apply to medical cannabis users.
Quebec’s Bill 157 is fairly restrictive when it comes to cannabis smoking, and appears to make no specific exceptions for consumption of medical cannabis. It would, however, allow designated cannabis smoking rooms in certain health facilities.
Saskatchewan’s Bill 121 doesn’t apply to medical cannabis authorized under federal law, but doesn’t specifically mention whether place of use restrictions would apply to medical cannabis.
Yukon’s Bill 15 makes no mention of an exception for where medical cannabis users can consume.
I have one final point, Worried: Using ingestible cannabis oil is a fairly discreet process. If that’s your method of medication, it seems highly unlikely to me that law enforcement would even catch you using it when you’re out and about.
If you’re still concerned about your ability to use medical cannabis outside of the house after legalization, I advise you contact your provincial or territorial government and ask them for answers.
Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it. Email email@example.com or to submit anonymously, fill out the form below. Please include an email address if you’d like to be notified when Herb answers your question: