Cannabis Made Clear

How To Be Sure You’re Purchasing Cannabis from a Legal Source

You may be purchasing from an illegal store or website and not even know it. Here’s how to spot the differences so you can shop responsibly.

How To Be Sure You’re Purchasing Cannabis from a Legal Source

When you’re purchasing any consumable product, it’s important to know where it comes from — this is especially true when it comes to cannabis. Many unregulated stores and MOM websites (short for “mail order marijuana,” a common term for sites that sell unregulated cannabis online) may look legitimate, but purchasing from them is illegal.

There are consequences associated with purchasing and consuming cannabis obtained from illegal sources. Fines of $150 (or more) are charged for possession of small quantities of unregulated cannabis. There are also penalties for possessing unregulated cannabis products for the purposes of distribution, from a fine to jailtime. (Learn more about what’s legal and what’s not for Ontario cannabis consumers.)

Consuming unregulated cannabis can also pose health risks — unlike regulated cannabis, these products may not be rigorously tested and could contain harmful ingredients. That’s why it’s important to trust your cannabis source.

Not all cannabis stores you come across while shopping in person or online are regulated. Here are some tips to help you spot illegal cannabis stores, so you can make informed purchasing decisions and shop safely.

Check the list

In Ontario, there are two legal sources from which to purchase cannabis: Authorized Cannabis Stores and the OCS. Authorized Cannabis Stores have bricks-and-mortar locations and can offer online ordering for delivery or curbside pickup. The OCS sells online only.

Whether you prefer to shop online or in store, you can check the official list of Authorized Cannabis Stores here.

Look for the seal

Authorized Cannabis Stores in Ontario must display the Provincial Retail Seal in a place that is visible from the exterior of the public entrance. The seal must be at least 17 cm wide and 20 cm long. This helps consumers easily identify a legal retailer’s storefront.

Ontario Authorized Seal

Pay attention to ID and payment methods 

If a website asks you to upload a photo of your driver’s license or any other form of photo identification, it’s not the website of an Authorized Cannabis Store.

Your privacy is important. Authorized Cannabis Stores will ask anyone who appears under 25 for identification before you are permitted to enter the store and if you’ve placed an online order, you’ll be asked to provide identification at the time of delivery or curbside pickup. Similarly, you’ll be asked to provide identification upon delivery of an online order purchased through

One more note about purchasing cannabis online: If a website asks that you pay for your order by logging into your bank account and sending an email Interac e-Transfer, then the site is an illegal source.

Examine the Package

You can tell whether a cannabis product is legal or not by its packaging. An unregulated cannabis product from an illegal source will be missing key information and symbols on its label, which means you’re not getting the full scoop on what’s inside the package. Here’s how to spot unregulated cannabis products.

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