Dear Herb: Can I legally order cannabis from this website?

Or, "How can I tell an illegal online cannabis store from a legal online cannabis store?"


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Dear Herb: Is it legal to order CBD oil and patches to Quebec from B.C.? The website I'm shopping on says they deliver Canada-wide. — Suzi Shopper

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/04/2019 (1401 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: Is it legal to order CBD oil and patches to Quebec from B.C.? The website I’m shopping on says they deliver Canada-wide. — Suzi Shopper

Dear Suzi: I don’t know for sure what online cannabis store you’re shopping at, but it sounds like an illegal operation based on the details you shared.

First, you said you’re interested in ordering CBD patches. That type of product is not currently approved for sale by Health Canada, so I don’t see how a legal, licensed website could sell it.

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

Second, you said the website ships to Quebec from B.C. Right now there’s only one legal place to buy non-medical cannabis online in B.C. — the government-operated BC Cannabis Stores website — and they don’t ship outside of British Columbia.

Your question raises a broader question: how are Canadians supposed to tell the difference between legal online cannabis stores and illegal online cannabis stores?

Canada is home to an abundance of illegal online cannabis dispensaries, which are sometimes called mail-order marijuana dispensaries, or MOMs. Many of these illegal e-commerce websites have features a shopper might reasonably expect from a legal, government-regulated retailer, such as requiring customers to verify their age by uploading an image of their government ID. (I’ve even seen illegal online cannabis retailers that collect provincial and federal taxes from customers.)

I asked Health Canada to share some advice on how Canadian cannabis consumers can distinguish between legal and illegal online cannabis stores. Here’s what they recommended:

  • Check whether the cannabis products being sold are produced by a company that holds a federal cannabis sales licence. Health Canada’s full list of licensed cannabis producers is available here.
  • Check whether the online store itself has been licensed by a provincial or territorial government. This Health Canada webpage includes links to all the relevant provincial websites.
  • Legal cannabis products should include the special federal excise tax stamp that denotes a legal cannabis product.
  • Health Canada’s standardized cannabis symbol must also appear on legal cannabis products, along with various health warning messages. (Just because a cannabis product features the standardized cannabis symbol doesn’t mean it’s definitely legal — I’ve seen illegal cannabis products marked with this symbol in recent months.)

Here’s a list of the current licensed sources for purchasing cannabis online by province and territory. If you want to buy non-medical cannabis online without breaking the law, these are your only options:

All of these licensed online cannabis retailers have one thing in common: they only sell to customers within their province or territory. At this point, it’s a safe bet that an online cannabis store selling from one province or territory to another is illegal.

As usual, a final caveat: Canadians who are registered with Health Canada as medical cannabis patients can order their cannabis directly from licensed producers in any province, and those licensed producers can ship directly to registered customers in other provinces.

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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