What is Cannabis?

What’s legal?

There are strict laws and regulations around the legalization of non-medical cannabis. Before you buy, use, or grow your own non-medical cannabis, learn more about what’s legal and what’s not.

Medical cannabis is within the responsibility of Health Canada. To find out more, go to Health Canada.

Legal age

You must be 19 years or older to buy, use, possess, or grow non-medical cannabis in B.C.

Edibles, topicals, extracts

As of October 17, 2019, federal cannabis regulations will include new rules to allow legal production and sale of three new classes of cannabis products:

  • Edible cannabis, such as baked goods and beverages;
  • Cannabis extracts, such as vaping liquids, tinctures, wax, hash and cannabis oil; and
  • Cannabis topicals, such as creams, lotions and balms, and similar products that are meant to be applied to a person’s skin, hair or nails

As required by the Cannabis Act, the amended regulations will come into force on October 17, 2019. However, it will take time, after that date, before new cannabis products become available for purchase. Adult consumers can expect new products to appear gradually in physical and online stores beginning in late-December 2019.

For a high level overview of these new rules, please review: Final Regulations: Edible Cannabis, Cannabis Extracts, Cannabis Topicals.


To protect your health, keep young people safe and help prevent crime in your community, non-medical cannabis is sold exclusively at government-run stores, licensed private retailers, and the B.C. government’s online store.

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) operates public retail stores and the online store. The list of public retail stores, is be available on the BC Cannabis Stores website. Online sales are available only through the BC government online store. Private retail stores cannot offer online sales and delivery services for non-medical cannabis are not permitted.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is responsible for licensing and monitoring private retail stores. Licensed private retailers may sell cannabis and cannabis accessories. They may not sell liquor or tobacco or any items other than cannabis and cannabis accessories. The list of licensed retailers is available on the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch’s page. Licensed retailers are required to display a valid licence where it is visible to the public.

All legal non-medical cannabis has an excise stamp attached to its packaging. Federally-licensed producers and processors apply the appropriate excise tax stamp for British Columbia. If the product does not have a British Columbia stamp it is not legal for sale in B.C. Each province and territory has a different coloured cannabis excise stamp for products sold in their jurisdiction.

B.C. cannabis excise stamp
 B.C. cannabis excise stamp

Value Add of Legal Cannabis

There are strict laws and regulations around the legalization of cannabis that require each batch or lot of cannabis to undergo third-party testing. These requirements are not mandatory for unlicensed producers.

Third-party testing facilities like Anandia and Valens test cannabis for:

  • Residual solvents, pesticides, heavy metals, aflatoxins, and other microbial contaminants
  • They also test for the strength of products, which helps ensure product package readings of CBD and THC content are accurate

Cannabis from illegal sources is not subject to regulatory controls and mandatory testing. It may contain  contaminants and the labelling may not accurately reflect potency.

In February 2021, as part of a pilot study, the B.C. Cannabis Secretariat (Secretariat) sent 20 dried cannabis samples seized from illicit retailers in the Metro Vancouver region to a federally licensed analytical testing lab. The results found that many samples contained contaminants and would not be allowed in the legal cannabis market.

The pilot was carried out by the Secretariat, with assistance from the BC Centre for Disease Control and the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH); NCCEH has authored a blog titled “Unregulated Cannabis: Risky Production Practices Raise Concern for Consumers” that discusses the test results.


Adults 19+ can carry up to 30 grams of dried non-medical cannabis, or its equivalent, in a public place.

In addition, adults cannot possess any more than 1,000 grams of dried non-medical cannabis, or its equivalent, in a non-public place, such as at your home. This limit is per household and is based on the expected yield from four cannabis plants.

Public use

Adults 19+ can generally smoke or vape cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are allowed. But remember, second-hand smoke can be harmful and irritating to people, especially children, so be mindful when smoking in public spaces.

Smoking and vaping cannabis are not allowed in the following public places:

  • Playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, swimming pools and spray pools, or any decks or seating areas associated these places
  • Public buildings, workplaces, or common areas of apartments, condos, or dormitories, and within six metres of air intakes, windows, and doorways attached to these places
  • Within six metres of bus stops, transit shelters, train stations, ferry docks and similar places
  • Regional and municipal parks, except for designated campsites
  • Provincial parks, except for areas identified or designated
  • Public patios
  • Health board properties, except in designated smoking areas

Registered hotel guests may smoke or vape cannabis in their hotel room if the hotel allows it.

Community care facilities, assisted living residences, and hospitals may designate specific rooms in which residents or patients can smoke or vape cannabis.

Non-medical cannabis consumption (in all forms) is banned on K-12 school properties, as well as any adjacent sidewalks or boulevards. It’s also illegal for both driver and passenger(s) to consume non-medical cannabis in a car.

Local and Indigenous governments can set additional restrictions on public use of non-medical cannabis under existing powers to establish bylaws.

This printable factsheet provides additional details about public consumption in B.C. 

Vehicles and boats

Non-medical cannabis consumption is generally not allowed in vehicles whether they are parked or moving, but there are some exceptions to this rule.

It can be used in motorhomes or other motor vehicles, or campers, or trailers when being used as a private residence and parked off a public road or forest service road where camping is allowed.

Cannabis can be transported in a vehicle as long as it’s in its original, unopened packaging, or is inaccessible to the driver and occupants (for example, in the trunk). In addition, a maximum of four non-medical cannabis plants can be transported in a vehicle, but they cannot be budding or flowering.

Non-medical cannabis use is generally not allowed on boats. However, you are allowed to use non-medical cannabis on a boat that is moored or anchored if it has sleeping accommodations, a kitchen and a toilet.

Non-medical cannabis use is allowed in a private cabin on a commercially operated boat if the operator allows it.

Medical cannabis exemptions

There are exemptions for use of Health Canada authorized medical cannabis on school property and on inter-city buses, trains and boats as long as specific requirements are met. Details are available in the Cannabis Control Regulation under Part 4 – Medical Cannabis.

Advertising and promotion

There are strict federal rules around promotion of cannabis.

In addition, under provincial regulations, it is illegal for anyone without a retail license issued by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to advertise themselves as a licensed retailer. Also, no one can market, advertise or promote a place as a location to consume cannabis, or spend time after consuming cannabis.

To find out more about the provincial rules regarding advertising and promotion see sections 36 and 37 of the Cannabis Control Regulation and section 9 of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Transitional Regulation.