From buying to selling to smoking, what we know about the pot rules in Manitoba so far

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You'll soon be able to legally buy and consume cannabis in Manitoba — but there are plenty of rules to dictate exactly how you can do that.

On Oct. 17, Canada will become the first country in the G7 to legalize cannabis on a national level.

But it won't be a free-for-all: Ottawa and all the provinces will still enforce rules on its use, and those rules will differ from province to province. Here's what we know so far about how it's going to work in Manitoba.

Using it

To start with, Manitobans who want to use cannabis have to be 19 or older.

Assuming you're of age, you'll be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis on you in public — but carrying more is illegal. That means 30 grams is the most you'll be able to buy at one time.

According to provincial rules, you also won't be allowed to smoke or vape it in public.

The Non-Smokers Health Protection and Vapour Products Act will prohibit smoking or vaping it in public places — indoor and outdoor — including workplaces, group living facilities, streets and sidewalks, parks and beaches, school grounds, restaurant patios and the grounds of health-care facilities.

A smoker holds up a bong at 420 celebrations at the Manitoba Legislature on April 20, 2017. According to provincial rules, you also won't be allowed to smoke or vape cannabis in public following legalization.

An exception will be designated rooms in hospital palliative care units or end-of-life hospices. As well, the owner of a group living facility can designate a separate smoking room in the facility. Hotel owners can do the same.

You can, however, smoke or vape in a private residence, including your yard, the province says.

It's unclear what the province's rules will mean for renters whose landlords don't allow marijuana smoking inside, and who won't be allowed to smoke outside their apartment blocks.

Federal rules won't allow retail of edible cannabis products right away, but you're still allowed to make your own.

Manitoba rules don't explicitly ban consumption of edibles other than in vehicles, boats and schools, but Premier Brian Pallister has said he's considering closing that loophole.

Buy it, sell it — but don't grow it

In Manitoba, you're going to have to buy your cannabis because provincial rules don't allow you to grow it at home.

The federal legislation, however, allows for growing up to four plants at home — which has left some experts to suggest Manitoba's home-growing ban may be open to a court challenge.

Last year, the province announced it will use a hybrid public/private model for legal cannabis, meaning the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation will purchase cannabis from licensed producers and deliver it, or arrange for delivery, to approved, privately operated retail cannabis stores.

Customers shop for marijuana inside a recreational marijuana store in Denver in this 2015 photo. In Manitoba, customers will not be able to handle or sample merchandise in pot shops.

According to the provincial Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act, retail will be regulated by Manitoba's Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority, while Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries will administer order processing and distribution to authorized retailers.

To be authorized, retailers must pass muster with the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba. After a request for proposals in February, the province selected four retailers, and another request for pre-qualifications to expand opportunities closed in August.

The qualified retailers are listed on the province's website, although a recent merger dropped the group down to three:

  • Delta 9 Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corporation, which are in partnership and will provide product to each other's retail locations.
  • National Access Cannabis, in partnership with several Manitoba First Nations, including Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Long Plain First Nation, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation.
  • Garden Variety, a consortium involving Avana Canada Inc. of Ontario, Fisher River Cree Nation of Manitoba, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation of Ontario, MediPharm Labs of Ontario, and U.S.-based retailer Native Roots Dispensary.

Canopy Growth bought out the shares of Hiku Brands — the owner of Tokyo Smoke, which was originally on the list — in July.

Delta 9 and National Access Cannabis both say they'll have stores ready to operate in Manitoba on Oct. 17 — Delta 9 says it will have one and National Access Cannabis says it will have three — but a spokesperson for Garden Variety said it won't have its first stores open until later this year.

Eventually, in an effort to eliminate the black market, the province says its goal is for 90 per cent of Manitobans to have access to legal cannabis within a 30-minute drive or less. In July, Manitoba Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade Blaine Pedersen said the province hopes to achieve that within two years of legalization.

According to provincial rules released earlier this month, stores will be required to do background checks on employees — although a criminal record won't necessarily disqualify candidates.

Stores also won't be allowed to offer free samples. In fact, customers won't even be permitted to touch the product before purchasing it.

Stores can't sell plants or seeds, take returns or sell more than 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent to a customer. They can't be open between midnight and 8 a.m.

The rules require stores to display certain public service notices — such as information about safe consumption — as well as install video surveillance system with clear, colour, time-stamped images of all interior areas.

Employees will have to complete the Smart Choices training course, offered in-class by authority inspectors, and verify all customers' ages using photo identification.

Stores must also maintain records of inventory, including data on product received, available for sale, sold, not available for sale because it's on display, subject to a recall, or disposed of.

Driving with it

Last month, Ottawa approved its first roadside testing device to screen drivers for drugs — the Drager DrugTest 5000, a handheld device that tests saliva for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — although concerns have been raised about the accuracy and invasiveness of the test.

Under Bill C-46, with new federal amendments coming into effect this December, police will have the right to conduct roadside saliva tests of drivers they suspect to be under the influence of drugs.

The federal government has approved its first roadside testing device to screen drivers for drugs. If you want to take cannabis with you in your car in Manitoba, provincial rules require it to be stored so that it's inaccessible to people in the vehicle.

According to federal rules, a driver who is found to have between two and five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000.

Manitobans will also be prohibited from consuming the drug in motorized vehicles on a highway, under Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act.

Recent changes to the act will give police officers the authority to suspend a driver's licence for 24 hours if the officer believes the driver is under the influence of a drug and unable to safely operate the vehicle.

The act also requires the registrar of motor vehicles to determine if drivers should face further consequences following the suspension — meaning Manitoba Public Insurance could impose its own penalties.

If you want to take cannabis with you in the car, provincial rules require it to be stored in a secure compartment, like the vehicle's trunk, so that it's inaccessible to people in the vehicle.

Exceptions are made for cases where the vehicle is transporting somebody for compensation (taxicabs, for example) and the cannabis is in the possession of a passenger and in that person's personal effects.

Price point and taxes

The province has said multiple times it wants to keep pot prices competitive to avoid driving customers to the black market.

In December, the province suggested a price of around $10 per gram, but federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in February the price point hadn't been finalized and will ultimately be determined by market circumstances.

According to the province's Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, Manitoba won't charge sales tax on recreational cannabis.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries will apply markups of 75 cents per gram on recreational cannabis, plus an additional nine per cent, for retailers — who will also pay six per cent of their revenues as a social responsibility fee to the government.

Ottawa is also adding an excise tax to cannabis, revenue from which will be split 75-25 between the provinces and the federal government.

Policing it

As usual, breaking federal rules on cannabis will land you criminal charges.

Breaking provincial rules will net you a fine, varying based on the offence.

Smoking pot in a provincial park or campsite comes with a fine of $672, including court costs and other surcharges. The same fine will apply to people under 19 who are caught consuming or in possession of cannabis.

Growing the plants at home, supplying the drug to an underage person or selling it without a licence will bring fines of $2,542.

The fine for homegrowing has been criticized by some as overly high, but the province says it's the same as the fine for illegally producing liquor.

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