Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been outside the country for the past week, you’ll probably know that the Canadian federal government has just announced landmark legislation that would end the decades-long prohibition on marijuana possession. We at Lift wanted to provide an overview of the legislation and some of the key takeaways.
(1) The basics
Once the law is enacted, Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to grow up to 4 plants 100cm in length in their residence, and possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public or the equivalent in other (liquid, solid, concentrate) form. Canadians will also be able to transform their purchased marijuana into other forms, as long as it doesn’t involve the use of organic solvents.
(2) A bevy of new, serious criminal offences
There are dozens of new, serious criminal offences that Canadians can face if they operate outside the legal regime. A number of acts are penalized: everything from possessing and distributing illicit cannabis (even if under 30 grams) to the public possession of any budding/flowering cannabis plants, to the cultivation of cannabis in a non-residence. All of the offences are hybrid offences, meaning the charging officer typically has the ability to decide whether to charge you with a summary charge or a more serious indictable offence. In addition to being charged criminally, many of the offences also provide for administrative monetary penalties of up to $1 million. Some of the most serious new offences include providing cannabis to a person under 18 and the use of a youth in the commission of a cannabis offence. These and other offences that provide for a 14 year maximum jail sentence would not be eligible for conditional sentences or discharges—all but guaranteeing that some offenders will see jail time.
If you grow 5 or 6 plants (instead of the 4 allowed), let your plants grow 150cm tall (instead of the 100cm allowed), possess over the 30 allowable grams of dried cannabis but below 50 grams, or possess cannabis from an illicit source, police have the ability to write you a ticket with a summons and a fine instead of the regular criminal procedure. If you pay the fine you will have a non-criminal conviction. This ticketing option may have been enacted to shield the government from potential section 12 Charter challenges from individuals who would otherwise face a steep jail sentence for just barely going over possession and grow limits.
(4) Provincial distribution and oversight
Canadian provinces will carry the bulk of overseeing distribution and local oversight. This will make it so that the retail cannabis experience in Ontario may be different, than, say, the shopping experience in New Brunswick. However, vending machines and self-serve kiosks are prohibited nation-wide by the bill.
(5) Flower, oils, seeds, oh my!
Dried cannabis, cannabis oil, and cannabis seeds will be available to Canadians once the legislation is rolled out. Edibles will eventually be permitted to be sold but they aren’t in the initial version of the legislation, meaning it might take a number of years before we see edible products for sale. Canadians will be able to possess cannabis in many different forms, as long as the cannabis is the equivalent of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis.
The Liberal government actually introduced two bills, the Cannabis Act and another act that would allow police to mandate drivers to undergo an alcohol breathalyzer test—even without any reasonable grounds to believe or suspect. Police may also ask for an oral swab to test for marijuana, but only if they have reasonable suspicion. If the test turns out positive, they might have reasonable grounds to take a blood test at a police station. You could be subject to criminal sanctions if you have as little as 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of operating a conveyance (this is a fancy name for transportation devices such as cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes).
(7) A balancing act on packaging
While the legislation doesn’t contain the plain packaging rules that some licensed producers feared were coming, there are a number of restrictions, including prohibitions on the depiction of characters, people, and using brand elements in a way that evokes a positive or negative emotion about an image, such as glamour, recreation, or excitement.
(8) Much to be determined
There are a number of things that have to be set out by further orders or regulations, including what tax will be charged on products. The provinces and municipalities will also play a role in many facets of the legislation, which could alter the bare minimum rules set by this act.
Featured image by Kaihsu Tai.