"welcome to canada" the sign will say. it will also tell you that crossing international borders with cannabis is illegal. the purpose of this blog post isn't to provide information that is referred to as "a priori" - or otherwise understood at such a base level that it needn't be mentioned. everyone is entitled to a brain fart via airport security and meandering through the metal detector with a half-pooched pipe bowl found in your pocket isn't something to beat yourself up over. if you're intentionally trying to cross borders with canadian cannabis however, either to skirt the law or because you think that your canadian laws travel with you, you are not the target audience for this post. you might be better served visiting the website of sarah leamon law.
if you're a common sense kind of person, this post should help make traveling within canada most comfortable. it also provides tips on what to pack in order to enjoy a trip abroad that might be more or less accommodating to the cannabis consumer. just because you shouldn't be packing cannabis in your international luggage doesn't mean you can't pack for canna-preparedness.
but i digress. to begin, let's focus on the low-hanging fruit. canada has legalized recreational cannabis as of october 17, 2018. despite doing a disastrous job executing this unique leadership opportunity, it doesn't change the fact that canada exists in a post-prohibition society and it comes with it the benefits of a certain freedom that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world (outside of bolivia). in most provinces, cannabis laws/bylaws mimic those of tobacco, despite this being a stigmatizing comparison. how this benefits cannabis users is that it can be consumed wherever tobacco is permitted. in vancouver, for example, this limits your consumption to public spaces away from areas designated for children including all public parks. this is not overly restrictive and despite never having taken issue with walking down robson street with a joint in my mouth, i will admit that it is nice to not have to be concerned whatsoever when you turn the corner and walk joint-first into two beat cops. admittedly, i am like a hipster when it comes to smoking cannabis in public and i feel somewhat cheated that i don't get to be "that guy" who gets to rebel anymore. my "Steve mcqueen" moment has since passed. i also just dated myself with that reference.
so. where in canada should you smoke or otherwise consume cannabis?
vancouver, british columbia
i am biased as i reside in vancouver but given it has been referred to as "new amsterdam" and that "bc bud" is a term known worldwide as synonymous to quality and potency, i tip my hat to both this city and this province. as a province, british columbia has a rich history deeply embedded in cannabis and boasts some of the highest quality strains with the most unique terpene profiles known to man. bc's genetics are sought after by leading producers worldwide. nelson, bc is tucked away in the kootenays and is a voracious geography filled with some of the best cannabis known to man.
vancouver itself has been operating in a "grey market" environment for over 2 decades under the guise of medical access to cannabis. the first "compassion club" in canada was opened in vancouver along commercial drive by one of our strongest female pioneers, Hilary Black. vancouver has been referred to as "ground zero" in the fight against prohibition. i remember coming here when I was in my late teens and early twenties when "cannabis day" was just a dozen groups of 5 to 10 friends hanging out on the grass at the vancouver art gallery. (yes - the vag had grass on the field back in the late 90's and into the early aughts) i've watched this movement grow from the days when you'd bring your cameras to ward off the police to the police bringing riot gear to eventually reroute traffic on georgia street when dozens of thousands of advocates spilled over in to the streets of downtown vancouver. 4/20 and cannabis day celebrations are not held at sunset beach along the seawall in yvr's west end. vancouver also houses cannabis-friendly venues and dab bars currently found at new amsterdam cafe, cannabis culture, and high score.
vancouver is home to some of canada's highest-profile restaurants and churns-out some of the best asian food this side of the pacific. the outdoor adventures are almost limitless and range from seawall walks and bike rides to hang-gliding off the side of a rocky mountain and everything in between. the winter climate - although challenging from a rainfall perspective - is milder and more tolerable. not seeing the sun can present issues however it is entirely unpredictable and not worth trying to plan around. the typical summer day from july to september usually includes blue skies, no clouds, and a perfect temperature of 25 degrees celcius. it is referred to as "lotusland" for a reason.
edmonton (and to a lesser extent - calgary), alberta
i was born and raised in alberta, and i might suggest this is the second best place to smoke in canada given their understanding of the value in de-regulation and minimizing bureaucratic bullshit. alberta might have once been cannabis's staunchest adversary but given the opportunity to capitalize and monetize this new industry opened the doors to a laissez-faire approach to regulation. i suggest edmonton because once again, i am biased. i was born and raised in edmonton so i have a general familiarity with the city more so than i do calgary, despite having lived there in the early aughts. it is still a pretty rad town filled with hospitable excitement fueled by oil and gas barons and with such close proximity to the rocky mountains - specifically banff and canmore - it feels like a very close third in the grand scheme of things.
unless you're a glutton for sub-arctic punishment, i would avoid visiting edmonton in the dead of winter. you should be safe anywhere from late may to early september but you risk life and limb otherwise and you've been warned. edmonton boasts some of the least restrictive regulations in canada when it comes to cannabis. edmonton is home to the crash hotel and hopes to be one of canada's first "cannabis destination" hotels where smoking and consuming cannabis on-site will be permitted. the crash hotel is expanding their footprint into squamish, bc in 2019 and aims to be a safe space for cannabis enthusiasts and tourists, not to mention a great launching pad into one of canada's most unique geographies and climates.
there are currently no cannabis-friendly venues in edmonton, however there are a plethora of retail stores to purchase legal cannabis. well over 100. unfortunately, supply shortages that were the fault of short-sighted bureaucrats not listening to those that build this industry in the clandestine environment for decades. "they" suspect supply issues should be resolved by spring of 2019 but this waits to be seen. supply shortages are not unique to alberta however with such a large number of stores, they have experienced the most pain the short term.
as much as i complain about toronto having stolen center stage when it came to legalization, credit must be given where credit is due. despite ontario having it's own unique subset of issues relating to regulation, toronto is simply a great city to visit if you're wanting a little bit of almost anything that canada has to offer. there are still some illegally operating dispensaries in toronto however their local authorities are not as amicable and tolerant towards the "grey market", or what we now affectionately refer to as the "silver market".
toronto boasts an incredible food scene as well as nightlife, arts, entertainment, and outdoor activities. their cottage country is unparalleled in canada. niagara falls is a short drive away from the city providing an iconic view for your infused visit.
what to pack
packing for cannabis isn't challenging but it comes with a few notable "must haves".
1. legal cannabis:: if you're traveling within canada, don't forget your weed at home. first and foremost, stock up on and pack your favourite varietals. do not exceed the thirty gram limit and you're all set. if you choose to bring cannabis from the "silver market", it is suggested you pack it in a container from a licensed producer via the legal system to avoid any issues.
2. grinder:: i personally prefer the medtainer when it comes to both mobile use as well as for home. they present with the fewest issues as far as the grinder "jamming" or otherwise sticking to itself. it is light and fits easily into carry on or bathroom kits. you can store cannabis, prerolled joints, or accessories inside to maximize even more space.
3. papers:: if you have a preferred brand of papes, stock up and bring them with you. there is nothing worse than landing or arriving at your destination to find that there isn't a convenient store in sight. even if there is, being cornered into buying a pack of zig-zags is not ideal. i use pure hemp papers myself and the reason being is the technology employed to increase "traction" when rolling. perhaps i just need to moisturize my hands.
4. lighter/matches:: if you don't have papers, you can always find some kind of device to smoke out of or some kind of object to create one from. what you can't do is create fire out of an empty pop can or a hollowed-out apple. pack a lighter in your carry on and your checked luggage. matches also. i always keep matches in my bathroom kit and a lighter on my person and my checked luggage if i have it. believe me. it is worse to have a joint and no fire than fire and no joint
5. smell-proof kit:: i used to pride myself on how dank my bag smelled when i was a flying as a patient with a legit prescription. there was a certain pride that came along with being able to legally carry on domestic flights. in hindsight, it likely did little for the stigma at the time. in addition, a kit helps keep you organized and it may as well have a proper seal on it. this will also contribute to the shelf-life of your cannabis if you keep it away from air wherever possible.
6. boveda:: don't leave home without it. all of your cannabis should be stored with humidity control of some kind. i have a strong preference for boveda as i personally feel it performs the best out of what is mainstream - boost and integra being one in the same. humidity control not only shows you care about your cannabis, it also helps combat some of the dryness that comes with air and ground travel. if you're not using boveda and you do not have an airtight container, a four hour flight (not uncommon in canada) might dry up your herb a lot faster. just look what it does to your hands and face.
7. vape & charger:: nothing worse than arriving anywhere with a dead battery and no way to recharge. this seems like a no-brainer but if you have a vape, be sure to pack all necessary adapters. this will also allow for an additional backup should you arrive without papers or a pipe. a vape will avoid you having to choke-down unnecessary amounts of aluminium oxide when you're blasting your flower through pin-holes atop a beer or pop can
8. water:: nuff said. shit gets pretty thirsty.