Lonely Planet Writer

What travellers need to know as Canada makes pot legal

The Canadian government is officially legalizing cannabis, which means marijuana sales could hit stores across the country by this fall. The recreational marijuana sales in Canada are estimated to be worth $3.3 billion by 2027, and along with the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, it means that cannabis tourism companies could literally cover the country in smoke for the herbal tourist.

New Amsterdam Cafe owner Todd Bolli checks his inventory as he stands behind the counter of his retail shop in Vancouver. Image by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Among the tour companies, Canna Tours is a pedi-cab cannabis tour of Victoria, British Columbia, stopping at weed dispensaries where selected “ganjapreneurs” give mini-lectures on the plant and the west coast’s history with the plant.   Meanwhile, Vancouver is home to Alternative Med Tours, while Toronto has Canadian Kush Tours, which offers limousine tours of Toronto’s cultural districts, as well as weed cooking classes and a spa day after visiting local dispensaries and vapor lounges across Toronto.  Expect cannabis beer on tap, as well.

One startup in Toronto called Province Brands is developing non-alcoholic cannabis beer, which is being called the first legal beer brewed from cannabis and it hopes to hit Canadian bars in 2019.

Rodrigo Acevedo Casino looks on as Anna Bolechowska smokes marijuana with a bong at the New Amsterdam Cafe June 20, 2018 in Vancouver. Image by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

For smoke-friendly cafes, the New Amsterdam Cafe in Vancouver is where smokers can toke at a vapor bar while dining on leafy salads and one potato salad dish called the Cheech and Chong. Set in the heart of Vancouver’s ‘pot block’ where several other weed-friendly businesses are set up, it adds to the city’s growing reputation of being an Amsterdam weed culture-inspired city, with its coined nickname as ‘Vansterdam‘.

Toronto, as well, has a smoke-friendly café called the Hot Box Café, which is set in the heart of Kensington Market. It has designated smoking areas, as well as a lounge with a pool table, Bob Marley on the radio and a shop selling hemp tea, weed grinders and oil infusers.

Medicinal marijuana plants at Tweed in Smith Falls, Ontario. Image by Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images)

There are also key spots outdoors, too, as Vancouver is home to the Dude Chilling Park, a public park in the heart of the city, which first began as a prank with a joke sign, but the name stuck and was thereafter made official by the city.

Matt Maurer, Vice Chair of Cannabis Law Group at Torkin Manes LLP, however cautions that until the law changes, it is still illegal for anyone to currently buy cannabis without a proper medical document: “Visiting a dispensary may not in and of itself be illegal, but buying cannabis from a storefront dispensary currently is. Some municipalities in B.C. license them at a municipal level but it is still illegal federally under Canada’s Criminal Code.”

Consuming cannabis without a medical prescription is also illegal until 17 October. Matt explains: “although enforcement is lax in many parts of the country, partaking at a vape lounge without the proper medical document could get you in trouble.” And once recreational use becomes legal, where you can legally consume will be determined by each province or territory. “At the moment Ontario has indicated that it will only be permitted in private residences, hotel rooms, motel rooms and inns. Other provinces are going to be much, much more liberal,” Matt explains.

Pot tourists can also expect more herbal tea and cannabis-infused cuisine. Among the experts, the ‘Martha Stewart of weed’ chef Mary Jean Dunsdon, says that weed is doing the country some good. “There is still a stereotype of marijuana smokers as a dumb surfer guy or a gangster but it’s just not the case anymore,” she said. “The marijuana market is growing rapidly, I think its going to be the new money.”

Nothing contained in this article constitutes legal advice. Travellers are encouraged to consult a lawyer for any specific concerns and questions they may have.