Canada just legalized recreational marijuana

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What is legal as of October 17, 2018

Cannabis is now legal. Subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, adults who are 18 years of age or older are legally able to:

  • possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public
  • share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults
  • buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer
    • in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers
  • grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use
  • make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products

Cannabis edible products and concentrates will be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act came into force on October 17th, 2018.

Possession limits for cannabis products

The possession limits in the Cannabis Act are based on dried cannabis. Equivalents were developed for other cannabis products to identify what their possession limit would be.

One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 15 grams of edible product
  • 70 grams of liquid product
  • 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
  • 1 cannabis plant seed

This means, for example, that an adult 18 years of age or older, can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis.

Cannabis for medical purposes

The current regime for medical cannabis will continue to allow access to cannabis for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider.

Protecting youth

The Cannabis Act has several measures that help prevent youth from accessing cannabis. These include both age restrictions and restricting promotion of cannabis.

Age restrictions

No person may sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18. There are 2 criminal offences related to providing cannabis to youth, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail:

  • giving or selling cannabis to youth
  • using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence

Restricting promotion and enticement

The Cannabis Act helps discourage youth cannabis use by prohibiting:

  • products that are appealing to youth
  • packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that makes it appealing to youth
  • selling cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines
  • promoting cannabis, except in narrow circumstances where young people could not see the promotion

Penalties for violating these prohibitions include a fine of up to $5 million or 3 years in jail.

Protecting public health

The Act protects public health through creating strict safety and quality regulations. In addition, public education efforts are currently underway to raise awareness about safety measures and any potential health risks.

Strict regulation

Federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for overseeing the cannabis regulation system.

The Federal government’s responsibilities are to set:

  • strict requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis
  • industry-wide rules and standards, including:
    • types of cannabis products available for sale
    • packaging and labelling requirements for products
    • standardized serving sizes and potency
    • prohibitions on the use of certain ingredients
    • good production practices
    • tracking requirements of cannabis from seed to sale to keep it out of the illegal market
    • restrictions on promotional activities

Provinces and territories are responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. They are also able to add their own safety measures, such as:

  • increasing the minimum age in their province or territory (but not lowering it)
  • lowering the personal possession limit in their jurisdiction
  • creating additional rules for growing cannabis at home, such as lowering the number of plants per residence
  • restricting where adults can consume cannabis, such as in public or in vehicles

Be sure to check local laws in your province.

Public education

The Government of Canada has committed close to $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities. These are to inform Canadians, especially youth, of the health and safety risks of cannabis consumption.

Reducing criminal activity

Statistics Canada reports that in 2017, almost 48,000 cannabis-related drug offences were reported to police. The majority of these (80%) were possession offences. A criminal record resulting from a cannabis offence, even a minor possession charge, can have serious and lifelong implications for the person charged. In allowing the production and possession of legal cannabis for adults, the Act helps keep Canadians who consume cannabis out of the criminal justice system, reducing the burden on the courts.

Criminal penalties

Cannabis offences target those acting outside of the legal framework, such as organized crime. Penalties are set in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. Sanctions range from warnings and tickets for minor offences to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for more serious offences. Some offences specifically target people who make cannabis available to youth.

Offence Penalties
Possession over the limit
  • tickets for small amounts
  • up to 5 years in jail
Illegal distribution or sale
  • tickets for small amounts
  • up to 14 years in jail
Producing cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits or with combustible solvents
  • tickets for small amounts
  • up to 14 years in jail
Taking cannabis across Canada’s borders
  • up to 14 years in jail
Giving or selling cannabis to a person under 18
  • up to 14 years in jail
Using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence
  • up to 14 years in jail

Further penalties related to cannabis-impaired driving are also included in Canada’s impaired driving legislation, along with impairment rules for other drugs such as:

  • LSD
  • heroin
  • cocaine
  • psilocybin (magic mushrooms)

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Cannabis Legalization and Regulation by Justice/Canada – Research to Action © 2018 Time Network (Canada)