How is Manitoba Managing Legalized Cannabis?


The Federal government has stated that the sale and consumption of marijuana – formally known as cannabis – will become legal in Canada on October 17, 2018, under the Cannabis Act. Each province will be responsible for creating legislation to administer and regulate cannabis within their borders.

Manitoba’s plan to address legalized recreational cannabis involves amendments to many Manitoba laws to accommodate the legalization of the formerly banned substance. The planned framework borrows heavily from existing legislation governing the sale and consumption of tobacco and alcohol, reflecting the status of marijuana as an impairing substance (like alcohol) that can be also smoked (like tobacco).

The legislation has received royal assent, meaning it is ready to become law once it is proclaimed, but is not yet in force. Cannabis use laws will be enforced by Manitoba police forces.

The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba will become the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (“LGCA”). The LGCA will be responsible for regulating the distribution and sale of cannabis, and for providing advice to the minister about activities respecting cannabis.

Individual municipalities will have the authority to determine whether to permit or ban the sale of cannabis within their municipality. Manitoba’s licensing rules and regulations for the purchase, storage, distribution and retail of cannabis will apply on Manitoba First Nation communities. Manitoba First Nations will also have the authority to bar retail cannabis stores in their community if they prefer.

While the federal Cannabis Act permits each household to grow up to four individual plants, Manitoba has decided to ban the growth of cannabis at home.

How Will Recreational Cannabis Be Sold?

Private stores licensed by the LGCA will be able to sell recreational cannabis to people who are 19 and older. Medical cannabis will not be sold alongside recreational cannabis in retail stores. All recreational cannabis sold by licensed stores will have to be purchased through the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation. Additionally, all cannabis products sold must be classes of cannabis authorized by, and labeled according to, the federal Cannabis Act. Cannabis cannot be consumed in a cannabis store – so don’t expect to see any Amsterdam-style “marijuana cafes.” Cannabis will not be sold in stores that sell liquor products.

If cannabis is sold in a non-age-restricted cannabis store, the cannabis and cannabis products must be kept behind a counter or covered shelving that prevents customers from viewing the product. Customers are not permitted to view cannabis and cannabis packages until after it is purchased. Cannabis will be able to be sold in an age-restricted store with products on display, but with the interior of the store blocked to outside viewers. These models are similar to how many tobacco products are currently sold in Manitoba.

As with liquor, cannabis products cannot be sold to persons who are already intoxicated or sold or given to young persons. Cannabis is not to be possessed or consumed by those who are under 19 years of age. Similarly, it is illegal to use false identification to purchase cannabis, or to provide an ID to a youth in order for them to purchase cannabis or enter an age-restricted store. Fines for youth possession of cannabis will mirror those of liquor.

The LGCA can require cannabis retailers to post public service notices to inform the public about responsible cannabis consumption and the dangers of driving while high.

Are There Restrictions on Driving and Boating with Cannabis?

Driving and boating while high are illegal. The consumption of cannabis while driving or boating is illegal. This prohibition includes farm equipment and off-road vehicles.

In fact, having cannabis in a boat is only legal if the cannabis is stored in a closed compartment of the boat (very similar to the rules for storing liquor in a boat).

Having cannabis in a vehicle is illegal, regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion, unless the cannabis is stored in the trunk or another space designed for storing goods that is not readily accessible by anyone in the vehicle, or behind the last row of seating if the vehicle is not a car with a separated trunk. If these rules sound familiar, it’s because they’re very similar to the rules for transporting alcohol.

One exception to this rule is for passengers of taxis and other paid transportation vehicles; passengers are permitted to transport cannabis on their person or stored in their personal effects.

Where Can Cannabis Be Consumed?

Cannabis can be legally consumed by any means at home, provided “home” is not a condo or apartment building that has banned cannabis consumption. Smoking or vaping cannabis in indoor public places and workplaces is prohibited, with certain exceptions made for designated rooms in palliative care wards of hospitals, end-of-life hospices and designated hotel rooms.

As with tobacco, smoking and vaping cannabis will also be banned in outdoor public places including, but not limited to:

  • streets, sidewalks and parking lots;
  • parks, playgrounds and beaches;
  • school grounds and the grounds of health-care facilities;
  • pools, splash pads and water parks;
  • outdoor entertainment venues;
  • sports fields or outdoor sports venues; and
  • restaurant patios and decks.

The Non-Smokers Health Protection and Vapour Products Act, which sets out the above bans on smoking and vaping, is silent on the issue of edible cannabis products and concentrates. While the Federal government has stated that the sale of edible cannabis products and concentrates will be prohibited for an additional year after October 17, 2018, that sale restriction does not bar the creation or consumption of homemade edible cannabis products. At present, this leaves open the option for those who make their own pot brownies at home to consume them in public places – a loophole the provincial government has stated it is investigating and will likely close.

While the legislation governing cannabis has received royal assent, it is not yet in force and this not yet the law in Manitoba. Recreational cannabis consumption is still illegal, and laws are subject to change. If you have a question about your particular situation, seek legal advice from a lawyer licensed in Manitoba.

This article first appeared in Communication Journal, a publication of Pharmacists Manitoba

Correction notice: Previous versions of this article incorrectly referenced the “Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority” and the “Manitoba Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority.” This has been corrected to “Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba” and “Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba” (LGCA), respectively. We apologize for any confusion.

Manitoba’s approach to cannabis regulation and distribution involves the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, which regulates the industry, and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL), which administers central order processing from – and manages distribution to – licensed private sector retailers. The private sector will operate all LGCA-licensed retail locations in Manitoba, procuring all supply through MBLL.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.