May 17, 2019

Canada has legalized recreational cannabis and it is important to know the responsibilities of the various levels of government. The federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for overseeing the new system. Municipalities also have an important role to play.

Federal Responsibilities

The federal Cannabis Act came into effect on October 17, 2018, and regulates the production, distribution, sale, possession, and consumption of non-medical cannabis. The Federal Government is responsible for licensing and monitoring cannabis producers and for setting industry-wide rules and standards for the cultivation, processing, packaging and advertising of non-medical cannabis.

Provincial Responsibilities

Provinces and territories control the distribution and retail sales of non-medical cannabis within their jurisdictions. The BC Provincial Government has appointed the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) to be the exclusive wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis, while retail sales are offered to the public through a combination of government and private owned stores, as well as online through the government site.

For more information, visit the Provincial cannabis retail sales webpage.

Municipal Responsibilities

Municipal governments can regulate retail, cultivation, processing and research locations through their zoning authority, and some aspects of retail operations through their business licensing authority. Municipal governments may also support the federal and provincial governments with public education. Enforcement of cannabis sales rules and regulations is largely through the provincial government, except for the land use and licensing aspects that are regulated by municipal government.

A cannabis retailer cannot get a municipal business license without a license from the Provincial Government. No retail sales of cannabis are permitted without both a license from the Province and a business license from the City. Council has directed that any cannabis retailers operating without the required licenses be closed. The fine for operating a business without a business license is $1,000 per day.

The Cannabis Business Licence Application is available on the City’s website.

Recreational versus Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis is available with a physician’s prescription by mail order and is regulated by the federal government. You cannot buy prescription cannabis at a retail location.


Government of Canada Cannabis Act 
Province of BC Cannabis Control and Licensing Act
City of Vernon Parks and Public Places Bylaw #5057
Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Guide to Cannabis Legalization.