October 17 2018 will mark an extremely significant moment in the history of Canada; a moment that will pretty much affect all developed nations, with respect to culture and policy. On October 17th prohibition turns into permission and stigmatization will turn into normalization. This is, of course, a very positive step in terms of the big picture, with respect to the chain of events that the passing of Bill C-45 will undoubtedly set off. Legalization of cannabis in Canada will mean: no more incarceration for victimless crimes, accelerated research on the benefits of cannabinoids, reduced access to intoxicants for underdeveloped brains, increased access to individuals that can benefit from cannabis, reduced shame for those who already use the plant, and it will impose regulations aimed towards keeping the general public safe. All of these outcomes of legalization will hopefully predict a lot of positive social change in our vast country.

All of the positive downstream effects are the reasons why most of Canada’s population is supportive of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. Although, what most have failed to realize, is that legalizing recreational cannabis will be marginalizing one particular group of Canadians for a still undetermined period of time.

 Canada has had regulations in place for patients to access “marihuana” for medical purposes since July 2001 (MMAR). These regulations eventually evolved into the August 2016 Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). Though, due to stigma and lack of education related to cannabis in the medical community, physicians had been extremely stingy when it came to doling out an ACMPR license for just anyone who asked for it. As a result of the existence of barriers to medicine for many patients, what is now known as Canada’s Grey Market eventually established itself. Particularly in Vancouver, trailblazers began to emerge (individuals like Hilary Black, Marc and Jodie Emery, and Don Briere) who were willing to test the limits of the law in order to provide compassionate care to any patients seeking refuge.

If a resident of Canada desired to shop for boutique medical cannabis, they would need to walk into a Grey Market shop (or connect online) and provide only two pieces of information. The first piece is a valid photo ID proving you are of legal (drinking) age, the second, a doctor’s note, prescription, or any tangible proof that you have any illness that requires a medication that cannabis could be a viable alternative to. Through this model, individuals with a transient illness, such as an acute injury, people with milder chronic conditions like GI disorders or skin maladies, as well as the severely or terminally ill could all come to the same shop and receive sympathetic customer service plus cannabis products tailored specifically to their individual medical needs.

The Grey Market was a place filled with so much compassion, convenience, and selection that even ACMPR holders largely favoured this system over the government’s more primitive mail-order program. Unfortunately, however, the biggest flaw in Canada’s 2018 legalization bill, is that for a minimum of one year, this medical system will be entirely dismantled to make way for the recreation-only market. ACMPR holders, will of course be able to continue to access the medical model through government orders, however, the rest of the Grey Market medical consumers will be left not high, and dry.

What will I be able to purchase in retail outlets once cannabis becomes legalized on October 17th?

Once C-45 takes effect, retailers will be extremely limited in what they will be able to sell for an initial period of at least one year. Many products that some consumers had been accustomed to, or products that a lot of naive consumers were expecting to hit shelves right away, will still be awaiting further legislation; essentially, they will not be available until they can be safely introduced into the recreational market.

So, what will I see in the legal cannabis stores in a few months?

Cannabis flower (dried herb), cannabis oil (nothing exceeding a dilution of 30mg of THC per ml of oil), cannabis seeds and plants (in provinces allowing legal home grow), and possibly cannabis capsules.

What will I NOT be able to purchase for a minimum of a year following legalization?

Firstly, high potency concentrates or extracts have yet to be regulated, which means that no: hash, budder, wax, sap, PHO, BHO, rosin, live resin, shatter, Phoenix tears/RSO, HCE/HTFSE sauce or crystals, or any other high potency creations like moon rocks, will be seen until they are deemed safe for public use.

High potency concentrates also refers to vaping of cannabis concentrates, namely, cartridge vaping (CO2 extract and distillate) and disposable pens. Therefore, one cannot count on the ability to access the convenience of pre-loaded vape pens and tanks for at least one year.

Edibles like chocolates or gummies were largely discouraged by even the Grey Market, and they will not be seen in the legal market immediately either.

If you have ever used CBD treats or balms for your animals, don’t expect brands like Bully Bites to be presumed safe for pet use for a while.

Lastly, if you suffer from skin conditions, fasciitis, arthritis, muscle/joint pain, or sexual discomfort, prepare to be without your THC and CBD topicals for some time.


Canada’s medical market could be well described as a self-sufficient need-based utopia; a place that made cannabis wishes come true. Influence from American legal markets created a plethora of selection on the West Coast, and lack of regulation gave crafters a ton of freedom to keep on creating even more iterations of cannabis. However, the legal market is not really going to be expanding on the knowledge possessed by the medical market, but tearing down what has already been created, in order to impose regulations, the standard bureaucratic way.

The grey market was like an exclusive club that few knew about, and even fewer met the criteria to enter. Letting the public enter into a formerly exclusive space, in exchange for normalization, can seem like a precarious trade off. Handing the industry over to the government can also make cannabis legalization feel a little bitter-sweet. Because to make way for the positive outcomes we were all promised, an industry created by enthusiasts of cannabis must be replaced by the lawmaker’s version of what a recreational market looks like.

In most cases change precedes progress, though at this point in time (just over a month before legalization) it is difficult not to be apprehensive about the future, while also mourning the loss of all that once was.

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