Planning a trip to Ontario to try legal cannabis?

There are millions of Americans who live within a few hours’ drive of Ontario, and now that Canada has legalized the recreational use of cannabis nationwide, many of those U.S. residents are expected to make their way up north to try it out.

As the largest city on Lake Superior, located only 45 minutes from a U.S. border crossing, Thunder Bay welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year already, and for those visitors who are looking to partake...

Know before you go

Every province in Canada has different rules and regulations surrounding the purchase and use of cannabis. In Ontario, adults over the age of 19 (with valid government-issued ID) are able to “purchase, possess and consume” cannabis.

Many communities in Ontario have legal retail storefronts - including Thunder Bay, but for those heading to smaller towns that might not have a store set up there is still a way to purchase legal cannabis, it will just take a little bit of planning.

Other than from an approved storefront, the only way to legally purchase cannabis in Ontario is through the Ontario Cannabis Store—an online shopping portal that sells dried cannabis as well as cannabis oils, pre-rolled joints, edibles, beverages and  accessories. OCS delivery to most Ontario addresses takes one to three days.

Cannabis can be delivered to any valid Ontario address provided an adult over the age of 19 accepts the shipment. According to the OCS, this means that you can order online and have your cannabis delivered to where you are staying in Ontario. You can order from outside Ontario as well, so a U.S. visitor could order online from home a day or two before their arrival and have it delivered to their hotel. Again, an adult over 19 years of age must receive the shipment and shipments will only be delivered in Ontario.

Let your hotel know that you’re expecting a Canada Post deliverythey are permitted to accept the package on your behalf. Individual properties have the right to choose not to accept and hold packages, so ask them in advance how they prefer to do it. If they don't want to accept the package, they can call you when the mail carrier arrives and you can go to the lobby and accept the package yourself, or alternatively the mail carrier will leave a slip at the front desk that you can take to the nearest post office to pick up your package when you arrive.

In public, no one is permitted to possess more than 30g of dried cannabis at any time —this means you can order no more than 30g in a single order.

Where to use cannabis

In Ontario, visitors should be aware that cannabis can be vaped/smoked in “private residences (including in outdoor spaces), public outdoor spaces (including parks and sidewalks), designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns, residential vehicles and boats (provided they have permanent sleeping and cooking facilities as well as being parked and/or anchored).”

If you're staying in a hotel, ask at the front desk if they have a preffered smoking area, otherwise you can smoke/vape outside as long as you are more than 9 metres (30 feet) from any entrance(s).

Municipal by-laws, lease agreements, and company policies can enact additional restrictions, so be sure to check with someone in charge if you are unsure if cannabis use is permitted where you are.


It is legal to smoke or vape in any public outdoor space, but be aware of your surroundings as it remains illegal within 20m (65ft) of a school, a playground, a childcare centre or a publically-owned sport field/facility (with the noted exception of golf courses) as per the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

Recreational Vehicles

While it is permitted to smoke/vape in your RV while parked, it remains illegal to smoke/vape in any vehicle (including an RV or boat) that is being driven or is at risk of being moved (this includes the driver and all passengers inside the vehicle). Using cannabis before or while driving (or while sitting in a vehicle that is at risk of being moved—so basically, any vehicle that runs) can result in an impaired driving charge.

Impaired Driving

Ontario police are authorized to use roadside oral fluid screening devices. Impaired driving is a serious offence in Ontario and drivers shown to be impaired by alcohol, cannabis or any other substance can face stiff penalties including having their vehicle impounded, a loss of driving privileges, significant fines and even jail time.

Don’t smoke and drive, or boat!

Travelling with cannabis

The only cannabis that is legal in Ontario is cannabis that has been legally procured through permitted sources. You cannot bring cannabis across the U.S./Canada border, in either direction.

Travelling domestically with cannabis is permitted providing you are in compliance with other applicable regulations (max 30g etc.) but if you are considering bringing cannabis back to the U.S. or any other country, DO NOT DO THIS! It is not worth the risk.

A sign on the Canadian-side of the U.S./Canada border crossing at Pigeon River reminding Canadians and returning U.S. visitors that it is illegal to cross the border with cannabis.

Cannabis is illegal in most countries and despite being legal in some states, cannabis remains federally illegal in the U.S.

A drug smuggling conviction will ruin your life. Don't risk it. Just leave it behind and start planning your next visit.

Be respectful

Cannabis has been illegal for decades; there are many conflicting opinions on legalization, and not everyone is happy about it. As long as you are complying with the law you are good, but for the sake of keeping the peace be respectful about your consumption. Ask your hotel where they would prefer you smoke, don’t blow clouds at passersby, dispose of unused materials properly—basically, don’t be a jerk.

Take care of yourself

The cannabis of today is often stronger than what people may have tried decades ago. Also, combining alcohol and cannabis can increase the felt-intoxication from both substances. So be careful. Go easy. Call a cab or use a ride-sharing service to get home.

For more information on legislation and retail sales visit the Ontario Government’s Cannabis info page and the Ontario Cannabis Store.

About Stephanie Reid

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Stephanie is a content creator and media specialist and has a true appreciation for Northern Ontario and all of its many offerings and attractions.

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