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What Americans need to know about buying legal pot in Canada

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It’s legal to smoke marijuana in Canada, but it won’t be simple or straightforward for Americans planning to cross the border for a quick toke.

Marijuana laws can be different from one city to another, and most advertising is restricted under federal laws. That means it won’t be easy for a visitor to follow the signs to a pot store and stroll out with a lit joint a few minutes later.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has also reminded citizens that marijuana remains illegal in the U.S. and that those caught at the border with pot will be subject to arrest and prosecution.

Here’s what Americans need to know about taking advantage of legal marijuana in Canada.

Minimum age

You must be 19 years of age or older to buy marijuana in most Canadian provinces, except in Alberta and Quebec, where the minimum age is 18. You must show valid photo identification either in-store or to the delivery person if ordering your marijuana online.

You can’t bring weed back to the U.S.

If you’re living in Detroit, you won’t be able to cross over to Windsor, Ont., and buy a few joints to bring home for the weekend.

It’s illegal to cross the U.S.-Canada border with any amount of marijuana in your possession, whether the marijuana is in your pocket, in your car, on your boat or in your airline luggage. It does not matter whether the destination state has legalized marijuana. Offenders can face up to 14 years in a Canadian prison.

It’s also impossible at this point to buy legal marijuana from a retailer in Windsor because Ontario won’t have licensed marijuana stores until April.

Buying it legally

Ontario is the only province where marijuana is not yet sold at a brick-and-mortar retail store. Every other province has some form of in-person sales, meaning you can buy marijuana during a quick visit. These stores are either private or run by the provincial liquor board.

WATCH BELOW: Canada Post strike raises questions about pot delivery in Ontario

For those who do travel to Ontario, you can buy marijuana online. You just need to wait around for a few days and keep your identification handy for when the delivery person shows up.

Those who visit pot-friendly British Columbia might also be disappointed. The province only had one retail store open for business on Day 1 of legalization, in the city of Kamloops.

It’s illegal under Canada’s Cannabis Act to knowingly buy illicit marijuana.

You can legally purchase cannabis in fresh, dried, plant, oil or seed form. Edibles and extracts won’t legally go on sale until next year. However, it’s legal to make your own edibles.

It’s illegal to carry any more than 30 grams of dried marijuana or its equivalent in other forms. Refer to the federal government’s guidelines for specifics.

Each province is allowed to set its own price on marijuana, meaning it can vary widely from one region to another.

Finding a legal place to smoke

The safest place to smoke legal marijuana in Canada is at home, but that doesn’t help if you’re just visiting to enjoy a joint.

The laws around where you can smoke marijuana are different for every province and city. The only way to avoid a hefty ticket (in the hundreds of dollars) is to look up cannabis laws for the specific city you intend to visit.

Does the city allow cannabis consumption in public? If so, where?

Some cities and provinces don’t allow any public consumption of marijuana. Others allow it in designated smoking areas. Some permit it in public, but not around children.

The only legal place to smoke marijuana anywhere in Canada is at a private residence unless it’s banned by a condo board. That means a Canadian friend could invite you to his or her home to legally smoke.

Know the rules before you visit to avoid wasting your trip.

Don’t smoke in the car

It’s illegal to use marijuana and drive in Canada. Some provinces have also outlawed consuming marijuana in a moving vehicle, regardless of whether you’re a driver or passenger.

In other words, if you’re heading to Canada to smoke, make sure you have a designated driver to bring you home – and that the car doesn’t smell like weed when you cross the border. That could arouse the suspicion of U.S. customs officials.

American citizens will not be blocked from re-entering the U.S. if they are caught with marijuana at the border, but they will run into legal trouble considering it is illegal to do so, according to Christopher Perry, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“If you’ve smoked marijuana or we believe that there would be marijuana in the car, a U.S. citizen would be subject to secondary inspection and potential prosecution,” Perry told reporters in Detroit on Wednesday.

He added that U.S. border officers won’t start asking more questions about marijuana use.

“We don’t anticipate asking routine questions about marijuana use,” he said.

U.S. citizens planning to smoke marijuana in Canada will need to do their research first to avoid tripping over the confusing new rules around legalization.

If You’re Going to Canada to Buy Weed, Here’s What You Need to Know

Recreational marijuana is now legal, but the rules vary by location, from how old you must be to where you can smoke. Expect to bring cash and don’t try to take some home.

    Oct. 22, 2018

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Canada, giving adults the right to buy, carry and share up to 30 grams , or slightly over an ounce, of dried cannabis at one time — enough weed to roll roughly 60 joints. But where you can use it and how it is sold varies by province and territory. And don’t even think of trying to bring a joint back across the border.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re heading to Canada for weed.

How old do I have to be to buy legally?

You must be 19 to buy, possess and consume cannabis in most of Canada, including British Columbia. The minimum legal age is 18 in Alberta and Québec, although Québec’s newly elected government has pledged to raise the minimum age to 21. And everyone in your group needs to be of age: Sharing with minors is a crime.

Where can marijuana be purchased?

While the number of shops is expected to grow, options remain limited. Retail stores have yet to open in Ontario, where the government is moving forward with a tightly regulated private retail model scheduled to begin April 1.

And only one shop has opened in British Columbia so far — in Kamloops, B.C.

Global News, a Canadian television network put together a “province-by-province list of government-run, private and online outlets where you can get your hands on some bud.” Roughly a dozen legal cannabis stores have opened in Québec, including three in Montreal , Québec’s largest city. Global News points out at least three more are scheduled to open later this month, including another in Montreal .

While weed can be purchased online from legal retailers and be delivered to an address in Canada with a signature from someone of legal age, purchases usually require a Canadian credit card. In Alberta, for example, that means visitors from the United States must find “a physical brick and mortar store to make their purchase and most likely will have to pay cash, as most credit card clearing companies will not clear US cards for cannabis purchases,” Heather Holmen, communications manager at Alberta Cannabis, the western province’s only legal, nonmedical online cannabis store, said in an email.

What can I expect to pay?

Provinces and territories are responsible for regulating cannabis sales, and new online shopping sites list a wide variety of marijuana with a range of prices.

Alberta Cannabis has prices from 9.24 to 14.95 Canadian dollars a gram, or about $7 to $11.75, with pre-rolled joints from 6.64 Canadian dollars each. Prices on Cannabis NB, the legal online cannabis store of New Brunswick, range from 8.99 dollars a gram for loose buds of “Liiv Kinky Kush,” which have “an earthy, pine wood scent,” complemented by “a pinch of pepper,” according to the site, to 15.50 dollars a gram for “Lemon Skunk.”

Where can I smoke?

Public consumption of cannabis varies by local jurisdiction. You can’t smoke pot on the sidewalk in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan or the Yukon, where marijuana consumption is banned in public.

Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario allow you to smoke weed anywhere it’s legal to smoke tobacco, with the exception of cars and places where children are often present. Generally that means no smoking in parks, sporting fields or near a school or playground.

In Ontario you must be more than 20 meters, or about 66 feet, away from an area like a school, playground or day care center — even if children are not present. And many hotels in Canada, including the Marriott and Omni hotel brands are already smoke-free, which means cannabis smoke, too.

Don’t smoke and drive

Driving while under the influence of cannabis — or any other drug — is still illegal in Canada. Cannabis must be sealed and out of reach to drivers and passengers — like in the trunk — if being transported by car. If caught driving while high, you could face substantial fines and possibly go to prison.

What about bringing it back to the U. S.?

Nine states in the United States and the District of Columbia now allow recreational marijuana use, including Maine, Washington and Vermont, which share the border with Canada. But that doesn’t mean you can bring weed back and forth with you.

Travelers returning to the United States are barred from bringing cannabis with them because the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana remain illegal under federal law. “Individuals found with marijuana may face seizure, fines, arrest, or in the case of aliens, denial of admission into the U.S.,” Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, wrote in an email.

While every inspection is different, she noted, “zero tolerance fines and penalties generally range from $500 to $5,000.” Likewise, it is illegal to bring cannabis into Canada.

The bottom line

Every Canadian province has a website dedicated to its own specific cannabis laws and regulations, so do your research before heading across the border to smoke.

Another option: Hire someone to plan your trip for you. In Toronto, Canada High Tours offers two-hour packages starting at 50 Canadian dollars that include “several unique options for respectful and responsible cannabis consumption.” Canna Tours in Victoria, British Columbia, offers to connect travelers with “cannabis-friendly” accommodations.

Recreational marijuana is now legal, but the rules vary by location, from how old you must be to where you can smoke. Expect to bring cash and don’t try to take some home.