Dear Herb: Can I smoke my medical marijuana in public?

Canada's legal medical cannabis program is a matter of federal law, but Ottawa doesn't regulate smoking in most places


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Dear Herb: As a medical marijuana user, am I able to smoke in public? — Medicating on Main Street

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/06/2018 (1688 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: As a medical marijuana user, am I able to smoke in public? — Medicating on Main Street

Dear Medicating: Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this question. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to assume you’re a medical cannabis user who’s legally registered with Health Canada.

That’s a federal program, but federal law only regulates smoking in a small handful of places, such as airports. Regulating the smoking of anything in a public space — including legal medical cannabis — falls to municipal, provincial and territorial governments across Canada.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

Federal legalization of non-medical cannabis is spurring those local governments to re-examine their rules surrounding smoking, so the ironic truth is that smoking medical cannabis in public could actually become harder after weed is legalized, at least in some places.

For example, Manitoba’s Cannabis Harm Prevention Act amends the province’s Non-Smokers Health Protection Act to restrict cannabis smoke just like tobacco smoke, without any special exception for medical cannabis users — that means medical cannabis smoking will be prohibited in any enclosed public place.

Other provinces are specifically considering medical cannabis consumption in their new consumption laws. The cannabis smoking restrictions in British Columbia’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, for example, look like they wouldn’t apply to medical cannabis (unless future regulations say otherwise).

Ontario’s Cannabis Act explicitly prohibits cannabis consumption in a public place, regardless of the method used, although it does create an exception for medical cannabis users as long as they obey restrictions in the province’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

The bottom line here is that if you want to make sure you’re using your medical cannabis in a legal way when you smoke it in public, you’ll have to first check provincial and territorial laws, then any municipal laws in your area.

I ran your question by the advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana to see if they had any more insight.

“It’s something of a challenge at the moment due to evolving provincial, city, and in some cases, local condo rules and everyone is rightfully confused,”  wrote CFAMM CEO James O’Hara in an email.

“There’s no absolute clear answer at the moment except that if you’re a medical patient in your own single-family dwelling home on your own property, then you’re probably good.”

I know that’s not a terribly satisfying answer, Medicating.

If you’re worried about the consequences of using medical cannabis in public, especially with increased scrutiny of marijuana smokers following legalization, you might want to consider some alternative methods of ingestion: oils, home-made edibles and vaporization are all options for medical cannabis users like yourself. Good luck!

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.

First, please check this list of questions already answered by Herb. Then, email, 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:  


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