February 2020: It’s only been a little over a year since marijuana in Montreal (and Canada as a whole) was made legal, but since that fateful day on October 17, 2018 the laws have changed regarding the sale of consumables and the legal age to purchase weed. We’ve since updated this guide to reflect those changes.
In case you’ve been trapped on a desert island since the end of 2018, yes, you can legally buy marijuana in Montreal (heck, in all of Canada!) for recreational purposes. Montreal dispensaries can be found both on and off the island, and there always seems to be more on the way more on the way. Dope, right? Just like responses to that awful pun, the goodness/badness/so-sadness of this development depends on who you ask. Anticipating that you’d ask us, we prepared a somewhat comprehensive list of answers to questions you might want to ask frequently or infrequently. The only thing not covered here is where to consume (see: Montreal parks) or what to consume after consuming (see: our guide to the best cheap eats in the city).
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Q 1. How old do you have to be to legally purchase cannabis in Quebec?
Let’s start with an easy one. You have to be at least 18 years of age to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use in Quebec.
It wasn’t always this way, though. In the initial iteration of the Cannabis Regulation Act, buyers could be as young as 18, but the November 1, 2019 amendment to the Act drawn up by the CAQ raised the age to 21 even though they had previously said they have no interest in doing so. Just goes to show that you can’t trust a politician.
Q 2. Where do you buy legal weed, and where can you legally consume it?
“Only the SQDC is authorized for the retail sale of cannabis in Québec,” blares the clear and blunt (get it?) statement about this on the explainer website made specifically to answer certain questions we unwashed masses may have about how this above-board shit is actually going to work. Who’s the SQDC, you ask? They’re the cannabis-specific extension of the SAQ — a.k.a. the Société des alcools du Québec, the government body in charge of hooch for those among you not from La Belle Province.
Previous to the November 1, 2019 amendment to the Act, you could smoke and/or vape cannabis wherever you could smoke or vape tobacco legally, whether it was a sidewalk outside your favourite poutine spot, or in alleys beside/parking lots behind the best bars in Montreal. Now you can’t. The new version of the Act states plainly that it is “forbidden to smoke or vape cannabis in any public place, whether indoor or outdoor.”
If you’re planning on smoking at home, have at it. You should be fine unless your landlord has specifically mentioned that you cannot in your lease. Should they be able to tell you that you can’t consume something legal and regulated? No. But the fact remains, they might have added the provision to your lease if it’s relatively new (i.e. one that was signed within 90 days of Bill 157/the Cannabis Regulation Act passing).
Q 3. What kinds of cannabis products are sold at the SQDC?
The SQDC is prepared for all comers, selling dried flowers products, teas to drink, ground/milled products, pre-rolled joints, oils, oral sprays and capsules. In regard to strains, you’re getting a pretty standard choice amongst Indica, Sativa, Hybrid, and blended and varying degrees of potency.
If you’re buying online, the SQDC site’s filtering mechanism to locate the right product for you is pretty good; you can isolate variables (product type, strain, potency, amount of THC and/or CBD, aroma) with ease and have some sense of really shopping around for what works best.
Vendors include some of the best-known names in the biz like Edmonton-based Aurora and Smith’s Falls, Ontario-based Tweed, but there are also lesser-known names like Dubon, Emerald Health Therapeutics, and Hexo.
Q 4. How much is legal weed, really? Is my old dealer still a better option, price-wise?
This is one of those trade-off situations.
As it stands, a street dealer will have better prices but are, in theory, not allowed to sell product. Conversely, the SQDC charges more than a street dealer, but are legally allowed to sell product. If this is a purely dollars-and-cents conversation, you likely already know that your guy is offering a better deal. But—pun completely intended—at what cost?
The general idea the Canadian government had going into all of this legalization-of-cannabis thing is that the product would cost around $6 per gram in Quebec and beyond in order to compete with the black market.
Has that happened? Not really. The going rate in Montreal seems to be around $8 per gram, but that’s a relatively fuzzy number. Sites like Budzu.com and PriceOfWeed.com try and create an average based on individual reporting, which isn’t exactly a foolproof method, but the general takeaway that shit costs more in Montreal than it does, in, like, Sherbrooke or Magog, isn’t that surprising.
Anyway, the SQDC has a lot of different product offerings in a lot of different forms at a lot of different strengths in a lot of different strains; apologies for anyone looking for a quick answer, but trying to narrow down how expensive their weed is by the gram is like asking how much flour costs by the gram.
Long story short: Different products have different prices at the SQDC; it’s not consistent across the board as some products are priced at premium while others are not.
Q 5. What types of stores are there and what’s the buying experience like?
There are brick-and-mortar stores but also a pretty snazzy online store. As for your buying experience, it kind of depends on if you’re buying in-store or online.
By now, any Montrealers who live and/or work downtown are used to seeing the long line for the SQDC on Sainte-Catherine snake down the block and around the corner (especially on weekends and during high tourist season in the summer). Interestingly, you can’t see anything from the street, and that’s by design.
As per an item on the SQDC’s site:
“As stipulated in the [Act to constitute the Société québécoise du cannabis, to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety-related provisions], cannabis is a product reserved for persons age 18 and over. As a result, we ensure that no minors are allowed to enter our stores or to see the products in them.”
As mentioned in the previous question, the online experience is pretty tight. Creating an account takes a literal minute, and being able to fine-tune and narrow down what you want to buy based on type of product, strain, potency, brand, and so forth. Checking out is done via credit card purchase, and the SQDC makes a point of keeping your purchases confidential. All of that said, the repeated praise we’re giving here is mostly due to how easily this could have been a nightmare.
However, we need to note that any out-of-towner reading this should note that this isn’t a weed delivery service. If you don’t hold an address in Quebec to have your weed shipped to, don’t use the online service. Go to a store. Take a walk. That sort of thing.
Q 6. Can I legally buy cannabis edibles?
Short answer: Yes, but maybe you won’t like the available selection.
Longer answer: Yes, but selection of items you can buy at the SQDC is limited for an official reason that looks suspiciously like “we really didn’t want to do this so we found some specious reasoning to do it as something less than even a half-measure.”
Let us explain.
The November 1, 2019 amendment the Cannabis Regulation Act paved the way for edible cannabis lovers to do their thing without running afoul of the law, but, because the laws were drawn up by the CAQ, they aren’t tantamount to what a normal person would think when they hear “edibles are legal.” Generally speaking, the amendment to the Act cut both ways.
The amendment made very specific kinds of edibles legal to purchase at the SQDC, i.e. the only place you can legally purchase cannabis, but, as previously mentioned, it also raised the minimum legal age to purchase cannabis from 18 to 21 and nixed public usage of cannabis products.
The amendment to the Act now states that “it is now forbidden to smoke or vape cannabis in any public place, whether indoor or outdoor.” One would assume this would extend to edibles, though it’d be hard to make the case that someone had broken the law here because you’d figure the gummy or chocolate (or whatever) a person consumed would be, you know, gone.
Except here’s the thing: there won’t BE any gummies or chocolates. At present the only “edible” in the SQDC is tea. Where are the gummies, chocolates, cookies, brownies, lollipops and other cannabis products we culturally associate with cannabis edibles (and always have)? Nowhere, because they can theoretically be confused with non-cannabis versions of those things by children and the authors of the law are going full Helen Lovejoy in this regard.
In July 2019, MNA politician Lionel Carmant said, via a statement, that:
"To reduce the risk of accidental poisoning in children, we are proposing a ban on the sale of products that are attractive to them, like chocolate and gummies."
This, of course, was later codified into the amendment to the Act, and is among the details people (and, to their credit, all the opposition parties in the province) point at when they say that Quebec’s new laws are the strictest in Canada—the implication being that they are unnecessarily strict.
Q 7. What do I have to know if I want to grow my own supply?
Um, that you can’t.
That said, given that everyone reading this knows at least ten people growing plants at home and they’re not living in fear, this doesn’t really seem like something the government really and truly cares about. But, again—really and truly and strictly and technically speaking—while it’s legal to possess and consume cannabis, one is not legally allowed to “cultivate cannabis for personal use” or “possess a cannabis plant for personal use.”
TL;DR weed is big business now, didn’t you know? Why would the enterprising people over at Canopy Growth Corp. (market cap $18.2bn at time of writing) and Aurora Cannabis Inc. ($10.4bn) — you know, the people who “discovered” weed — let John Q. Citizen horn in on their profits?
Q 8. How much can I hold on me?
While we doubt the cops will be carrying a kitchen scale around with them to be exacting, here, the law says that you cannot possess more than 30g on your person — echoed in the SQDC’s regulation that they can’t sell more than that to any given person. You can have up to 150g total in your home (or homes if you have more than one private residence), but if the cops are already in your home, we’re going to guess you’ve got problems that this explainer isn’t going to be able to handle.
Q 9. What should I know in regard to transportation?
This is an interesting conversation, because generally speaking it combines a few concepts. Earlier, we said theoretically you could legally smoke cannabis products wherever you could smoke cigarettes. That said, you can’t be under the influence when behind the wheel — which is generally a good idea. So, yeah, don’t smoke and drive (or smoke then drive) seems to be the law as per the updated Highway Safety Code.
Essentially, say you’re copping at the SQDC and driving home with your product so as to enjoy it later. That cannabis is allowed to be in your car, but you aren’t allowed to smoke it in said car.
Q 10. What if I’m leaving the province with my weed?
Three words: Respect. The. Limit.
What we CAN tell you is this: The possession limit of no more than 30g per person applies everywhere. That said, you’re welcome to leave Quebec with your weed, and you’re welcome to come back with pot from another province. As per above, however, just make sure you’re not smoking it if you’re the one driving to and from said provinces.
Every province and territory in Canada has its own laws surrounding the sale, possession, minimum age of use and public usage of cannabis. Seeing as there are 13 of them in total, we won’t go into the nitty-gritty of what’s allowed where by who and when and what the product can be, but what we can say is that you should make sure you’re informed before going elsewhere.
Q 11. And if I’m leaving the country?
Weed is legal for recreational purposes in Canada, full stop. We’re not going to say we’re legal experts on drug possession laws in other countries, but even if it is legal where you’re going, you can’t transport yourself with your legally purchased goods. As we like to say in Canada: Sorry! You’ll be expected to ditch anything you have left on you behind before beginning the boarding process, so… smoke it while you got it?