Cannabis and smoking in Halifax

As of Oct. 17, 2018 recreational cannabis is legal in Canada and changes are happening at all levels of government to address its legalization. For the municipality, this has included significant amendments to  By-Law N-300 (Respecting Nuisances and Smoking) which came into effect Oct. 15, 2018.

Amendments are also progressing for the Regional Plan and Land Use By-laws regarding appropriate zones and land use controls for commercial cannabis production facilities.

All smoking and vaping, including tobacco and cannabis use, will be treated the same. 

Designated smoking areas on municipal property

Smoking and vaping on municipal property is permitted only within municipal designated smoking areas (DSAs).

CLICK HERE to view the online map of DSAs that have been installed to date.

  • There are currently 91 DSAs installed on municipal property throughout the Halifax region.

  • Requests for DSAs are being accepted by the municipality via 311 and assessed on a location-by-location basis. Each potential location must be compliant with the Nova Scotia Smoke Free Places Act. Other considerations include accessibility, lighting, impact on snow clearing, safe distance from intersections/ driveways, and whether a DSA on municipal property is unnecessary due to a smoking area already present nearby on private property (the municipality only installs DSAs on municipal property). The municipality is not installing designated smoking areas to service multi-unit dwelling / apartment buildings.  Multi-unit dwelling / apartment properties are privately owned, and, at the discretion of the property owner, a designated smoking area can be installed and maintained by the landowner on the property.

  • The online map reflects existing DSA locations.

Common questions

Where is smoking permitted?

Designated smoking areas (DSAs) exist on some municipal property, and are indicated by signs or stickers similar to this example. 

A sign with a green circle and an icon of a smoking apparatus is shown

All municipally approved and installed DSAs are indicated on the online map. The municipality continues to identify locations and is accepting requests for additional DSAs for consideration. The map will be updated regularly, as the status of installed DSAs changes over time.
Each sign/sticker indicates how far the DSA extends for that location. Signs/stickers can be permanent or temporary; for example, smoking permitted locations for an event on municipal property. 

Where is smoking NOT permitted?

By default, all municipal property is considered non-smoking (including streets and sidewalks) if not designated as a smoking area via installed signs/stickers similar to the example above. Municipal parks, trails, beaches, playgrounds, wharves and boat launches are already non-smoking areas and will continue to be so after the by-law changes.

As noted above, signs/stickers are being installed to indicate where people can smoke, which is a different approach from existing signs that indicate where people CAN’T smoke. 

How do I submit a request to mark a designated smoking area?

The municipality is accepting requests to mark designated smoking areas (DSAs) on municipal property. Call 311 to submit your request.

Decisions regarding DSAs will be assessed on a location-by-location basis. Each potential location must be compliant with the Nova Scotia Smoke Free Places Act. Other considerations include accessibility, lighting, impact on snow clearing, safe distance from intersections/ driveways, and whether a DSA on municipal property is unnecessary due to a smoking area already present nearby on private property (the municipality only installs DSAs on municipal property). 

Smoking on private property will continue to be the responsibility of the property owner, although any smoking must adhere to the Province of Nova Scotia’s Smoke-free Places Act.

How will you enforce these by-laws?

Municipal by-law compliance officers and Halifax Regional Police will enforce these amended by-laws along with all other municipal by-laws. 

Why treat tobacco and vaping the same as cannabis?

Recognizing by-law amendments would be needed to address the introduction of legalizing recreational cannabis, we saw this as an opportunity to address complaints we’ve heard over the years about tobacco smoke on public property as a health concern through second-hand smoke.

Additionally, when it comes to enforcement, we recognized it would be very challenging to enforce a ban on just cannabis, as it would be difficult to prove exactly what substance the person was smoking/vaping. Potentially, we would have needed to gather samples of the product and get them tested in a lab to prove the substance type. This process would be problematic which is why we adopted a blanket ban approach.

What happens if I smoke/vape in a public space?

You could face a penalty from by-law enforcement. The fine is a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $2,000 per offence, and in default of payment, a maximum of 30 days in jail.

Is it prohibited to smoke/vape in a vehicle on a municipal street?

The municipality’s focus is always to ensure a reasonable approach is taken when enforcing by-laws, in particular new ones that require a significant change in people's behaviour. 

As is the case with all by-laws, municipal compliance officers work under a complaint-driven process. If municipal compliance officers see a violation during the course of their duties they have the ability address it in real-time. If a complaint is not made, or a compliance officer doesn’t see the infraction, there would be no involvement by the municipality.

Ultimately, these municipal by-law amendments aim to address the nuisance caused by second-hand smoke in public spaces and, through education, we would expect people to be mindful and respectful of others regarding second-hand smoke. 

A literal interpretation of the municipal by-law amendments, prohibiting smoking or vaping on municipal property, could mean that smoking or vaping in a vehicle on municipal streets would be a contravention of the by-law.  In practical terms, enforcement of the by-law – specific to prohibiting smoking or vaping in vehicles on municipal streets brings with it many challenges. This is one of the reasons why a reasonable approach must be applied to enforcement.

It is also important to point out that the Province of Nova Scotia’s Smoke-free Places Act states there is no smoking permitted in several enclosed spaces, including:

  • in personal vehicles when there is a person under the age of 19 present

  • in vehicles used as part of one’s job or work; this does not apply to a personal vehicle used for work purposes if they are the only person using the vehicle for work purposes (this applies to tobacco only – any use of cannabis in vehicles is prohibited)

How do I report smoking/vaping in a public space?

Call 311 to report any prohibited smoking or vaping. 

Recreational cannabis  

Federal legislation came into effect on Oct. 17, 2018, legalizing recreational cannabis.

What are the age restrictions for cannabis?

The provincial government has set the legal age for cannabis use, purchase, cultivation, and possession in Nova Scotia at 19. 

How many plants can I grow?

In Nova Scotia, adults 19 years of age or older can grow up to four plants per household. Note the legislation stipulates it’s per household and not per person. Therefore, it is irrelevant how many people live in a household.

Where can I grow cannabis for personal use?

In the urban and suburban areas of the municipality, plants will have to be grown inside or in a detached structure, like a shed or greenhouse, to help ensure public safety and to mitigate the potential impact of the smell of the plants interfering with a neighbour’s enjoyment of their own property.

If you live on a lot where you don’t have municipally provided sewer and water, you will be able to grow your plants outside as there is generally much more space between properties.

I think a neighbour is growing more than four plants. What should I do?

The federal Cannabis Act determines the personal cultivation limits for Canadians. Once recreational cannabis use becomes legal on Oct. 17, 2018,  please call 311 to report non-compliance.

Where can I legally buy cannabis?

The province has indicated that cannabis will be sold through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC), both online and in 12 existing stores. The four NSLC locations selling cannabis within the municipality are:

  • Dartmouth - 650 Portland St.
  • Halifax - 5540 Clyde St.
  • Halifax - 3601 Joseph Howe Dr.
  • Lower Sackville - 752 Sackville Dr.
Im interested in commercial cannabis production. How do I get a permit?

Before you can operate a cannabis production facility, you must be licensed by Health Canada and have a municipal development permit for the use. If you will be constructing a building or doing renovations to an existing building, you will also need a construction permit

For a municipal development permit, you will need to know whether the zoning on your property permits a cannabis production facility. Please contact 311 to speak to a planner about your zoning. Commercial cannabis production facilities are generally permitted in industrial zones and rural mixed use zones that permit industrial uses and/or intensive agricultural uses.

The facility will need to be located at least 230 feet (70 metres) away from any residential uses, daycares, community centres, schools, religious buildings, public parks or playgrounds. In some zones, the facility can’t be larger than 5,000 square feet (464.5 square metres). The land use by-law requirements are summarized in a staff report considered by Regional Council on September 18, 2018.

How much cannabis can I possess at one time?

The provincial government has set the possession limit at 30 grams of dried cannabis, or equivalent, when outside the home. 

There will be no restriction on how much cannabis you can keep at home or how you need to store cannabis in your home. Extra care is encouraged around how cannabis is stored, especially in a home with children and pets.

How will legalization affect those using cannabis for medical purposes?

The legalization of recreational cannabis will not affect the way patients access cannabis for medical purposes. However, those smoking cannabis for medical purposes must still adhere to municipal by-laws restricting smoking and vaping on public property.


I'm confused about which level of government is responsible for which part of legalization of cannabis. Can you help?

Yes, see the table below for more information. 

Responsibility Federal Provincial Municipal
Responsibility Federal Provincial Municipal
Possession Yes Yes
Types of cannabis products permitted Yes
New criminal offences Yes
Regulatory compliance Yes
Industry regulation Yes
Advertising regulations Yes
Impaired driving Yes Yes
Medical cannabis Yes
Public health Yes Yes Yes
Education Yes Yes Yes
Taxation Yes Yes
Cultivation and harvesting Yes Yes
Sale and distribution Yes
Retail model Yes
Social consumption Yes Yes
Protecting youth Yes
Enforcement Yes Yes Yes
Home cultivation Yes Yes
Impacts on neighbourhoods Yes
Zoning restrictions Yes