By Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, Cannabis Lawyer
Canada has become the second country in the world to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. However, each province has enacted its own regulations, so the laws for legal transportation of cannabis change as you cross from one province into another. Below is a brief summary of the laws applicable to legal transportation of cannabis in each province. In some provinces, if you place opened cannabis packages in an airtight container, out of reach of the driver and passengers, it is legal to transport it—at least from one legal location to another. In other provinces, unless it is in an unopened original container, with proof of purchase, and out of reach for the driver and passengers, you may find yourself in legal hot water.
Newfoundland and Labrador
If you are driving with cannabis in Newfoundland and Labrador, any cannabis you are transporting must be in the original packaging with an unbroken seal, it must be out of reach for everyone in the vehicle, and you must be transporting it from one lawful location to another, i.e., do not just leave it in your vehicle.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Act Respecting the Control and Sale of Cannabis, implementing the Cannabis Control Act, prescribes the applicable law and states in relevant part at Section 77.(1), Cannabis in vehicle or boat, that “[a] person shall not drive or have the care or control of a vehicle or a boat, whether it is in motion or not, with cannabis in the vehicle or boat unless (a) the cannabis is in the package in which it was purchased and the seal is unbroken; (b) the cannabis is not otherwise readily available to a person in the vehicle or boat; (c) the vehicle or boat is being used as a dwelling house; or (d) the cannabis is in the possession of a passenger who is being transported, for compensation, in a bus or taxi.”
Furthermore, common carriers and persons only may “transport cannabis from a place or premises where cannabis is lawfully located to another place or premises where cannabis may be lawfully located.” See Section 77.(2).
Prince Edward Island
If you are driving with cannabis on Prince Edward Island, any cannabis needs to be in a sealed container, outside the reach of the driver, at a minimum.
Prince Edward Island has a fact sheet just as Nova Scotia does. In pertinent part, the fact sheet states that, “[y]ou cannot drive any vehicle while consuming cannabis. When you are driving, cannabis must be out of reach to the driver. Cannabis can’t be used by passengers either.” The sheet also states that you can transport cannabis, and “the laws for transporting cannabis are similar to those in place for transporting liquor,” and makes exceptions for consuming cannabis in boats or motor vehicles that “qualify as a private dwellings when docked.”
If you are driving with cannabis in New Brunswick, there is not an abundance of specific guidance concerning the law applicable to transportation of cannabis. The main takeaway is not to give a law enforcement officer any reason to search your vehicle. Here, the wise move would be to store any cannabis you are transporting in an airtight container, out of sight and out of the driver’s reach, and to keep your purchase receipts for it.
The New Brunswick Cannabis Control Act contains several provisions about cannabis consumption in vehicles and states that an inspector may, “at any reasonable time,” enter and inspect a vehicle to which the Act applies, and require production of documents as applicable,
At Section 18(2), Consumption – vehicle, it provides that “[n]o person shall consume cannabis or medical use cannabis in or on a vehicle (a) whether it is in motion or not, that is (i) on a highway as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, (ii) on a roadway, an all-terrain vehicle managed trail or a motorized snow vehicle managed trail as those terms are defined in the Off-Road Vehicle Act, or (b) that is in a place prescribed by regulation and in the circumstances prescribed by regulation, if any, (i) on a highway as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, (ii) on a roadway, an all-terrain vehicle managed trail or a motorized snow vehicle managed trail as those terms are defined in the Off-Road Vehicle Act, or (b) that is in a place prescribed by regulation and in the circumstances prescribed by regulation, if any.”
If you are driving with cannabis in Nova Scotia, it must be in a closed, sealed package out of reach of the driver and passengers. Also, you should keep your receipt, to prove you legally bought it from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, which is the only authorized retailer of cannabis in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia, where the government has a monopoly as to cannabis distribution, has simplified it’s cannabis law by providing a fact sheet, which states, in pertinent part: “[c]annabis in any form cannot be used in vehicles by passengers or drivers. You may be fined up to $2,000 for consumption in a vehicle; * * * The rules for transporting cannabis in a vehicle are the same as alcohol. Cannabis must be in a closed, sealed package and out of reach from anyone in the vehicle. You can be fined up to $2,000 for improper storage.”
If you are driving with cannabis in British Columbia, you should not operate a car with cannabis that is not in its original, unopened packaging. If you choose to transport cannabis in its original, unopened packaging, then put it in the trunk or someplace not readily accessible to the driver or passengers, and, if you have plants, do not transport more than 4 cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering.
In British Columbia, the Cannabis Control and Liscensing Act regulates cannabis transportation in Division 5 – Other Rules, Section 81, which provides at 81(1) that “an adult must not operate a vehicle, whether or not the vehicle is in motion, while (a) the adult has personal possession of cannabis, or (b) there is cannabis in the vehicle.”
There is an exception at Section 81(2) for cannabis that “(a) was produced by a federal producer, is still in the packaging from its purchase by a consumer and the packaging has never been opened, (b) is not readily accessible to the driver and any passengers in the vehicle, or (c) is no more than 4 cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering.”
Section 81(3) states that Section 81(1) does not apply to adults [enumerated in Division 1 – Possession Limits, Application, subsections (d), (e) or (f), who are “(d) licensees and their employees and agents when acting under the authority of the license; (e) persons who hold a license, permit or authorization under the Cannabis Act (Canada) and their employees and agents when acting under the authority of the license, permit or authorization; (f) common carriers who are transporting cannabis as authorized under the Cannabis Act (Canada), their employees when acting in the course of their employment and their agents when acting in their role as agent.”
If you are driving with cannabis in Yukon, you should place any cannabis in a closed container and ensure that it is inaccessible to all persons in the vehicle, and packed in a way that meets any prescribed requirements, which would likely include the original, unopened packaging.
In Yukon, Bill No. 15: the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act, governs cannabis, generally. However, the Act does not contain any specific provisions concerning the transportation of cannabis but does address possession in a vehicle at PART 5, CANNABIS CONTROL. Section 56, Possession of cannabis in vehicle, provides that “[a] person must not drive or have the care or control of a vehicle, whether or not it is in motion, if there is cannabis in the vehicle.” This provision is inapplicable if the cannabis is “in a closed container; inaccessible to all persons in the vehicle; and packed in a way that meets any prescribed requirements.” The section states that cannabis is considered “inaccessible” “when it is situated in the vehicle so that it is not readily available to the persons in it.” Section 56(4). Moreover, unless otherwise prescribed, Section 56 is limited to cannabis produced or obtained for medical purposes. Section 56(3).
Section 52, a catch-all, states that, “[e]xcept as authorized under this Act, the Cannabis Act or another applicable federal enactment, a person must not import cannabis into Yukon.” Further, the Act states at Section 54(2)(b), Possession of cannabis, that “an individual who is not a young person may possess cannabis,” and that, “(b) * * * “if the individual possesses the cannabis in a … vehicle, the total amount of cannabis that the individual possesses, whether of one or more than one class (i) is not more than 30 grams of dried cannabis, and (ii) is not more than any other amount and type of cannabis prescribed by regulation; and (c) the individual is in compliance with any restrictions in relation to cannabis possession prescribed by regulation.”
Additionally, the Act prohibits possession of a budding or flowering plant in a vehicle at Section 54(3)(a)(ii).
If you are driving with cannabis in Nunavut, the use of cannabis in vehicles, in any form, by drivers and passengers is prohibited. At the time of this writing, no additional guidelines were available.
In Nunavut, the cannabis legislation includes the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Statutes Amendments Act, the latter of which was designed to come into force when Canada’s federal cannabis legislation comes into force, although both Acts were passed on June 13, 2018. Nunavut bans the use of cannabis in vehicles, in any form, by drivers and passengers.
If you are driving with cannabis in the Northwest Territories, any cannabis you are transporting must be unopened and in its original packaging or stored in a place that is out of reach of the driver and passengers.
The Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act addresses a framework for cannabis legalization in the Northwest Territories, where the Liquor Commission is responsible for the distribution and sale of cannabis and initially, cannabis is being sold in existing liquor stores and through mail order from liquor stores.
Research about The Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act indicates that cannabis in a vehicle must be unopened or be stored in a place that is out of reach of the driver and any passengers.
The Minister of Finance, Robert C. McLeod, has been quoted to say, “[d]espite legalization, cannabis is still a controlled substance and under the Cannabis Products Act community governments have the authority to decide whether they want to restrict cannabis use and sale within their community. The Cannabis Products Act, gives community governments the same options for community control that are available under the Liquor Act.”
The Cannabis Products Act contains a section on Transportation, which provides at Section 4. (1) that “[n]o common carrier shall transport cannabis for delivery from a cannabis store to a person at an address located within the community in which that cannabis store is situated.” This prohibition is not applicable “to the transportation of cannabis to a vendor, cannabis store or another common carrier.” Section 4. (3).
If you are driving with cannabis in Alberta, you must transport any cannabis in closed packaging (airtight) and store it out of the reach of the driver or any occupants.
In Alberta, the federal Cannabis Act regulations serve as the law by default, pursuant to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Corporation. This Corporation’s website states the following in its section, “What are the limitations on transporting cannabis?”
“Within Canada, you are allowed to transport cannabis in a vehicle, but it must be secured in closed packaging and not within reach of the driver or occupants. Travelling with recreational cannabis is allowed within Canada and its provinces, provided it was purchased from a provincially licensed retailer. However, international travel with non-medicinal cannabis is not allowed regardless of your destination. Tourists who purchase recreational cannabis in Canada are not allowed to take it across federal borders. Carrying any cannabis or cannabis products (legal or illegal) across Canada’s borders is a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such activities liable for prosecution.”
If you are driving with cannabis in Saskatchewan, you can transport cannabis from one place to another, so long as you are going from one location of legal purchase or consumption to another place where it is legal to consume it. You should transport it in an airtight package and keep it out of the reach of drivers and passengers.
The Saskatchewan Cannabis Framework sets out the applicable regulations for transportation of cannabis, and these are in addition to those contained in the federal Cannabis Act. The Saskatchewan Cannabis Framework provides at iv. Keeping Saskatchewan Roads Safe, a. Zero Tolerance Approach for Drugs and Driving, that “[c]annabis can be transported from a place it can be legally purchased to a place where it can be legally consumed, or from one location of legal consumption to another.”
If you are driving with cannabis in Manitoba, you can only transport cannabis if it is in a sealed container in the trunk of your car, or if there is no trunk, then behind the rear of the last seat in the vehicle, or if you are operating an off-road vehicle, a power-assisted bicycle, a trailer, or complies with any other exception set forth below.
In Manitoba, the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act states that drivers there can transport cannabis at Section 213.1(1), Transporting cannabis in or on vehicles, that “[n]o person shall drive or have the care or control of a vehicle on a highway if there is cannabis in or on the vehicle, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.”
Exceptions are contained in Section 213.1(2), and provide that Section 213.1(1) does not apply if: “(a) the vehicle is a motor vehicle — other than a motor vehicle used for the transportation of persons for compensation — and (i) the cannabis is stored in the trunk, an exterior compartment on the vehicle or another space designed for the carriage of goods or baggage that is not readily accessible to any person in the motor vehicle, (ii) if the motor vehicle is a station wagon, van, sport utility vehicle, crossover or hatchback style of vehicle, the cannabis is stored behind the rear of the last seat in the vehicle, whether or not that seat is in an upright position, or (iii) if the motor vehicle is a motor home, the cannabis is stored in a cabinet or other storage compartment away from the driver’s area; (b) the vehicle is a motor vehicle used for the transportation of persons for compensation and the cannabis is in the possession of a passenger and carried on the passenger’s person or in the passenger’s personal effects; (c) the vehicle is an off-road vehicle and the cannabis is transported in compliance with Section 31.2 of The Off-Road Vehicles Act; (d) the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle; (d.1) the vehicle is a trailer; or (e) the vehicle is driven by or is under the care or control of a person of a class prescribed by the regulations and the cannabis is stored and transported in accordance with the conditions set out in the regulations.”
Section 213(2) prohibits consuming cannabis in vehicles, stating that “[n]o person shall inhale, ingest or otherwise consume cannabis in or on a motor vehicle, farm tractor, implement of husbandry or special mobile machine on a highway.”
If you are driving with cannabis in Ontario, any cannabis must be in its original, unopened packaging or packed in a closed bag or “not otherwise readily available” to you or anyone in the car with you.
In Ontario, the Ontario Cannabis Act governs cannabis transportation and provides at Section 12, Transporting cannabis, 12(1), that “[n]o person shall drive or have the care or control of a vehicle or boat, whether or not it is in motion, while any cannabis is contained in the vehicle or boat.”
An exception is contained at 12(2) which states: “Subsection (1) does not apply with respect to cannabis that, (a) is in its original packaging and has not been opened; or (b) is packed in baggage that is fastened closed or is not otherwise readily available to any person in the vehicle or boat.”
Other provisions make the above applicable to “cannabis obtained for medicinal purposes” and allow police officers to search a vehicle or boat, and any person found in it, “at any time, without a warrant” if the officer “has reasonable grounds to believe that cannabis is being contained” in the vehicle or boat. See Section 12(3) and 12(4).
If you are driving with cannabis in Quebec, you should only do so in its original packaging from the Société québécoise du cannabis, and if it has been opened, then place it in another airtight container; conceal it; make sure you have the receipt(s) of purchase to prove you purchased it at the Société québécoise du cannabis.
The Cannabis Regulation Act regulates transportation of cannabis in Quebec and it is strictly controlled because the government has a monopoly on its distribution. The Act provides in Bill 157, 2018, chapter 19, An Act to constitute the Société québécoise du cannabis, to enact the
Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety-related provisions, that the Société québécoise du cannabis is a subsidiary of the Société, and its purpose is “to carry out the Société’s mission as regards the sale of cannabis.” To that end, the Subsidiary may, “authorize a person to engage, on the Subsidiary’s behalf, in the transportation, including the delivery, and storage of the cannabis that the Subsidiary sells.” See Section 23.2(4). Section 23.35(2) provides that the Government may make regulations “determining the conditions that a person must meet to be authorized by the Subsidiary to transport or store cannabis, in particular those related to security clearances.”
Further, Section 23.37 provides that the Minister of Public Security “may also, after consulting with the Subsidiary, establish by directive the minimal verifications that must be conducted under a regulation made under paragraph 2 of section 23.35 before a person is authorized by the Subsidiary to transport or store cannabis.”
Finally, Chapter VI, TRANSPORTATION AND STORAGE OF CANNABIS,” states at Section 23, “Only the Société québécoise du cannabis, a person it authorizes in accordance with subparagraph 4 of the first paragraph of section 23.2 of the Act respecting the Société des alcools du Québec (chapter S-13), a cannabis producer or any other person determined by government regulation may transport, including deliver, and store cannabis for commercial purposes. The Government may, by regulation, prescribe the standards and conditions applicable to the transportation and storage of cannabis. It may also determine the provisions of such a regulation whose violation constitutes an offence and prescribe, for each offence, the fines to which an offender is liable, which may not exceed $100,000. Anyone who contravenes the first paragraph commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $5,000 to $500,000. The amounts of the fines set out in the second and third paragraphs are doubled for a subsequent offence.
Section 24 provides that “[n]othing in this Act may be construed as forbidding the transportation
of cannabis in transit in Québec; however, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the transportation of cannabis without a bill of lading indicating the names and addresses of the shipper and the receiver constitutes proof that it is intended for delivery in Québec.”
Section 70 (2) provides for inspections of vehicles “used for transporting cannabis”, and Section 80 allows for traffic stops by law enforcement if cannabis transportation is suspected, and the proper documents must be produced to establish it is being transported legally.
In short, the deal with cannabis in cars in Canada varies wildly from province to province so… be careful, do your homework, and don’t count on a break just because you are unfamiliar with the governing law!