Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Dear Herb: Will legal cannabis stores track my purchases?

Herb tracks down some answers about purchasing limits in Ontario and other provinces

Dear Herb: I'm in Ontario. My first question is about purchasing at the government outlet, or online. I can only order 30 grams per purchase. What if I take the 30 grams home, then come back to the store. Can I buy another 30 grams?

I know I will have to show ID and sign my name. Will there be a limit on the number of 30 gram purchases I can make per day, per week, per month or per year? (If there is, that means the government is monitoring my purchases, right?)

Same thing if it's an online purchase: will there be a limit? The thing is, it's legal. I can buy multiple bottles of beer, wine and liquor at the control board stores, so why wouldn't I be able to with pot?

Second question: Do you know if there will be a delivery/postal charge for online marijuana orders? — Leah

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/4/2018 – that’s before recreational cannabis was legal in Canada, so language and information in the article may be dated.

Dear Herb: I'm in Ontario. My first question is about purchasing at the government outlet, or online. I can only order 30 grams per purchase. What if I take the 30 grams home, then come back to the store. Can I buy another 30 grams?

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

I know I will have to show ID and sign my name. Will there be a limit on the number of 30 gram purchases I can make per day, per week, per month or per year? (If there is, that means the government is monitoring my purchases, right?)

Same thing if it's an online purchase: will there be a limit? The thing is, it's legal. I can buy multiple bottles of beer, wine and liquor at the control board stores, so why wouldn't I be able to with pot?

Second question: Do you know if there will be a delivery/postal charge for online marijuana orders? — Leah

Dear Leah: Thanks for writing in.

You're absolutely correct that you will only be able to buy 30 grams of dried cannabis bud at a time — and that goes for all the provinces and territories, not just Ontario.

The 30-gram limit will be imposed by the federal Cannabis Act, and will apply across the country, but the limit applies specifically to possession in a public place.

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There will be no federal restriction on the amount of cannabis you can possess in your home, so if you wanted to buy 30 grams at the store, stash it at home, and then go back to the store for another 30 grams, that would be legal as far as the Criminal Code is concerned. (An important note here: Quebec is planning a 150-gram limit on cannabis possession in non-public places — i.e. private homes — but it's the only province to do so.)

As far as Ontario is concerned, I put your question to the spokespeople for the Ontario Cannabis Store. Here's their response:

"Individual transactions in-store and online would observe the federal government’s proposed public possession limit of 30 grams for adults. OCS will provide guidance in-store and online to ensure Canadians are aware of the new law, including the public possession limit. Canadian adults are responsible to comply with the public possession limit."

That response doesn't entirely answer your question, I'm afraid, but in my opinion, the phrase "Canadian adults are responsible to comply with the public possession limit" suggests the OCS is mostly concerned with making sure its customers don't violate the law by walking out of their store with an illegal amount of cannabis, rather than tracking the total amount you purchase over a given period of time.

In your question, you assume you'll have to show identification and sign your name so the OCS can track your purchases. You'll definitely have to show ID to enter the store, but it's actually not clear whether that information will be kept on file for tracking purposes.

For readers in other provinces, you will definitely have to show ID to make cannabis purchases as well.

I did ask the OCS whether they'll be tracking consumer purchases, but they didn't answer that part of my question, so I called up Trina Fraser, a keen-eyed legal eagle who works exclusively in the cannabis space, for some well-informed speculation.

Fraser first pointed out the obvious: Ontario Cannabis Stores will definitely be able to track your purchases if you're using a credit or debit card, just like any other retailer, but beyond that, Fraser said she's seen no indications the OCS will be actively tracking purchases.

"I've never heard them say that (they're) going to somehow record your ID when you show it to get in," said Fraser.

An artist's rendering of what a future Ontario Cannabis Store might look like. (Illustration: Graeme Bruce / The Leaf News / J.P. Moczulski / The Canadian Press)

An artist's rendering of what a future Ontario Cannabis Store might look like. (Illustration: Graeme Bruce / The Leaf News / J.P. Moczulski / The Canadian Press)

"Nor have they said, 'We're going to be required to track any details of your purchase'. If I pay cash, I should get a receipt for that, but they should have no record of who made that purchase, and I haven't heard anything to the contrary."

The Ontario Cannabis Store, in Fraser's opinion, has no basis to keep a record of individual purchases.

"I'm sure there's going to be people who are going to go in with cash in their hand for the specific reason of not wanting there to be a record of them purchasing cannabis, and if there is such a record, there's going to be privacy complaints," she said.

"There being any written record of an individual purchasing cannabis is, I think, a legitimate concern in light of the fact that we've been told by the United States that mere admission of ever consuming cannabis could be a basis for refusal of entry."

Online cannabis shopping through the OCS seems ripe for tracking, since you'll have to provide a name and shipping address, but Fraser had an interesting thought about whether purchase limits will apply to online orders.

"If the online purchase is delivered right to your front door, technically, you're never in possession of it in public, so is that going to be limited to 30-gram purchases?"

Still, Fraser said she wouldn't be surprised if a 30-gram purchase limit is imposed on online orders in Ontario as a matter of policy, and neither would I.

Like you said, this all seems very restrictive compared to the rules for purchasing alcohol, but maybe the situation will change over time.

Finally, you asked about whether there will be a delivery charge for online cannabis orders from the Ontario Cannabis Store. I asked them about that, too, and was rewarded with this soundbite: "A delivery service is still to be determined, but we do aim for a delivery process that makes sense for our customers."

In an online FAQ, the OCS says:

"Products would be stored, packed and distributed in a safe and controlled manner. At a minimum, the same safeguards that exist now for our online alcohol sales would apply, including ID checks and signatures upon delivery, and no packages left unattended at the door."

To me "ID checks and signatures upon delivery" suggests some kind of certified shipping, and that costs money. Will the OCS pass those costs onto consumers? Herb's Magic 8-Ball says, "Most likely."

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.  Email dearherb@theleafnews.com or to submit anonymously, fill out the form below. Please include an email address if you'd like to be notified when Herb answers your question:  


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