The provincial government of Canada’s largest per-capita consumers of cannabis recently prepared for the October 17, 2018, nationwide legalization of adult-use marijuana with an order from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) of 3,750 kilograms, or about 8,267 pounds, of cannabis. The NSLC, which will be responsible for all sales and distribution, said it expects to buy 15,000 kilograms, or about 33,069 pounds, annually to supply its more than 900,000 residents.
On average, residents of the maritime province south of New Brunswick consumed 27 grams of cannabis in 2017, ahead of British Columbia (24.6 grams) and Alberta (24.1 grams), according to Statistics Canada.
Despite the popularity of the product with the populace, Nova Scotia’s cannabis policies are no free-for-all and include stringent penalties for impaired driving.
In most aspects, the Nova Scotia Cannabis Control Act mirrors federal laws with one big change. Nova Scotia will be the only province selling non-medical cannabis exclusively through government liquor stores. Most provinces and territories, in keeping with federal recommendations, will sell non-medicinal cannabis in stand-alone stores owned by private businesses or the government.
All cannabis purchase, sales, and distribution are under the auspices of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
A survey of 400 Nova Scotians by MQO Research found residents fairly evenly split on having non-medical cannabis sold in government liquor stores. Supporters and strong supporters of the decision to sell from government liquor stores outnumbered opponents and strong opponents 40 percent to 34 percent, with 21 percent neither for or against it. The strongest opposition, (41 percent, was from respondents 55 years and older.
Driving while impaired is illegal and has severe consequences in the province and cannabis infractions are the same as those for alcohol.
A “zero tolerance” policy is applied to all drivers in the Graduated License Program.
Penalties for all other drivers include immediate 24-hour suspension of a license if an officer believes the operator is impaired. Drivers who have a blood drug concentration of more than two nanograms of THC (per milliliter of blood) but less than five nanograms could be found guilty of drugged driving under the proposed summary offense. A person convicted of impaired driving faces a fine of at least $1,000 and one (1)-year driver’s license suspension. Subsequent convictions can lead to imprisonments up to 120 days, license suspensions of three (3) to five (5) years, or revocation.
An officer who suspects driving under the influence but is unable to lay a criminal charge can still immediately suspend a license from seven to 30 days.
Under federal guidelines, drivers face graduated penalties, depending on levels of drug or alcohol concentrations, as well as previous offenses.
Federally, the legal limit for THC in the bloodstream is two nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Concentrations between two (2) and five (5) nanograms result in a fine up to $1,000. Concentrations of five (5) or more nanograms will result in a $1,000 minimum fine for a first offense, imprisonment of 30 days or more for a second offense, and 120 days or more for a third offense. Penalties for drug-impaired driving can range from 18 months to as much as life imprisonment in a fatal crash.
How to Purchase
When legalization takes effect, non-medical cannabis will be available in government liquor stores run by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. The NSLC operates more than 100 stores in the province, but cannabis will initially only be available in about a dozen stores in Antigonish County, Wentworth and Liverpool. Locations and information are on the cannabis section of the NLSC homepage. The organization is also in the planning stages of opening a stand-alone cannabis store in downtown Halifax.
Online sales will be available through the NLSC homepage.
Cannabis displays and sales will be in special store-in-a-store sections that are designed so products are obscured from public view. They will have separate entrances and exits, and only customers 19 and older will be allowed inside with proof of age.
Employees will be trained on more than 70 strains of cannabis, and more than 150 products will be available. Many existing and new employees will be trained to sell both cannabis and alcohol.
Customers are permitted to buy a maximum of 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of dried cannabis at one time, or equivalents in fresh cannabis and cannabis oils. Edibles and other products are expected to be introduced in 2019 following authorization by the federal government.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Smoking will not be allowed in most public places. The Nova Scotia Smoke-Free Places Act, which requires all indoor workplaces and public places, outdoor areas of restaurants, bars, lounges, and cabarets to be smoke-free, was expanded to cover cannabis.
Like tobacco, cannabis is also banned at beaches, areas children frequent, sports venues, and public trails. Public consumption fines can cost up to $2,000.
Cannabis consumption will be allowed in private residences and in some common areas within multi-unit dwellings. Smoking and growing are allowed in rentals unless prohibited by lease or property agreements. The province is also moving to allow landlords to amend leases for allowing prohibitions.
Nova Scotia’s 10 public universities and 13 community college campuses are taking their own approaches to consumption, with most banning or restricting consumption. The Nova Scotia Community College system, where campuses have areas for tobacco smoking and vaping, will ban cannabis consumption.
It is illegal to consume cannabis while operating a vehicle for either drivers or passengers, and they can be fined up to $2,000.
In a vehicle, cannabis must be stored in a sealed container that is not accessible to the driver or passengers during transport. Improper storage in a vehicle is also subject to a $2,000 fine.
Possession Information and Limits
The minimum legal age to buy or possess cannabis in Nova Scotia is 19. The province allows possession by adults of up to 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of cannabis in most public places.
The national government has set equivalencies for one (1) gram of dried cannabis to equal:
- five (5) grams of fresh cannabis
- 15 grams, or one-half ounce (0.5 oz) of edibles
- 70 milliliters, or 2.35 fluid ounces, of liquid
- 0.25 grams of concentrate, and
- one (1) plant seed
There is no limit for home possession, but cannabis must not be accessible to individuals younger than 19.
Minors younger than 19 cannot possess recreational marijuana. Those with less than five (5) grams will have the marijuana seized, face a $150 fine, and their parents or guardians may be notified. Restorative justice fines, to recoup losses to victims or the community, may be imposed.
Those with amounts in excess of five (5) grams face criminal prosecution under federal law.
By federal law, patients using medical marijuana are allowed to have up to 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces — 30 times the daily dose prescribed by an authorized health-care practitioner, either an authorized physician or nurse practitioner — of dried marijuana or its equivalent.
to Be to Consume?
Nova Scotia will permit homeowners to grow up to four (4) plants in their home. Each apartment in a multi-unit property is considered a separate household. Municipalities may pass additional bylaws that further restrict cultivation.
These regulations do not apply for approved and licensed home-grown medical cannabis, which is governed by national laws.
Thousands of Canadians are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana. Until the new law is passed, Canadians must qualify for the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which came into effect August 24, 2016.
Recipients must provide medical documentation confirming the diagnosis by a health-care practitioner.
Patients must not be convicted of a marijuana-related offense and be registered only once at a time.
Generally, patients can qualify for medical marijuana under two categories. The second category is for patients suffering from other persistent debilitating symptoms. Among the ailments Health Canada lists as possibly qualifying are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Back and neck conditions
- Brain injury
- Chronic nausea
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure, including patients receiving dialysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Vehicular crashes
Information on eligibility and applying is available at the Canadian government’s medical marijuana website.
Authorized caregivers are allowed to possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil, and may transfer or administer the substances or provide a medical document. They may also transfer substances to an individual who is responsible for the patient under their professional treatment.
This page was last updated October 15, 2018.