Possession of recreational marijuana officially became legal under Canada’s Cannabis Act on October 17, 2018. The Liberal government also recently announced that fast and free pardons will soon be available for persons who were convicted of simple marijuana possession before pot was legalized. Bill C-93 will amend the Criminal Records Act to reduce barriers to travel and employment for persons who have a criminal record for possession of pot, and the goal is to make these changes into law by this summer.
The legal age for pot possession differs between provinces. In Ontario, the legal age is 19 years and over which is the same as the legal drinking age. However, it’s a criminal offence to share pot with someone under the legal age, even if you’re related to the minor. This is different than the laws governing alcohol consumption because, although it’s illegal to provide alcohol to a minor, parents are allowed to give their children a drink of alcohol, under social sharing laws.
Changes in the Criminal Code
In Canada, you can now legally:
- Possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis in public (or the equivalent in non-dried product)
- Share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults of legal age
- Buy cannabis products (dried, fresh or oil) from an Ontario licensed retailer
- Grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household for your personal use, using licensed seeds or seedlings
- Make your own cannabis products at home, as long as you’re not creating concentrated products
- Smoke pot anywhere where smoking tobacco is allowed (in Ontario)
Be aware that the possession limits are based on dried cannabis, so the amount you can legally possess by weight depends on the type of pot. Here are the possession limits defined in the Cannabis Act. Under the following limits, a person may possess 5 times as much fresh cannabis (or 150 grams) as dried cannabis.
- 1 gm of dried cannabis = 5 gm of fresh cannabis
- 1 gm of dried cannabis = 15 gm of edible product
- 1 gm of dried cannabis = 70 gm of liquid product
- 1 gm of dried cannabis = ¼ gm of solid or liquid concentrates
- 1 gm of dried cannabis = 1 seed from a cannabis plant
Marijuana offences under the Cannabis Act range in severity and the penalties are based on the seriousness of the offence. Some offences may result only in a warning or fine, while more serious offences can result in criminal prosecution and substantial jail time. Less serious offences are prosecuted as a summary conviction offence (such as possession of illegal pot), and more serious offences are treated as an indictable offence.
- Possession of more than 30 gm dried cannabis (or the equivalent product) can result in a ticket for very small amounts over the legal limit or up to a maximum of 5 years in jail.
- Knowingly in possession of illegal pot (not purchased through a licensed retailer) is punishable by a maximum fine of $5000 and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail.
- Trafficking (illegal distribution or sale of marijuana) can result in a ticket if it involves a small amount, or a maximum of 14 years in prison. Under our Federal laws, it’s illegal to sell pot to friends, even a small amount.
- Producing or growing cannabis in excess of the allowable amount for personal use (or with combustible solvents) is punishable by a ticket for small amounts, or up to 14 years in jail
- Providing or selling pot to persons under the legal age is now treated as a very serious offence, subject to up to 14 years in jail
- Using a minor or youth to commit a pot-related offence is a similarly serious offence and subject to up to 14 years in jail
- Possession of pot for persons under the legal age can result in a $200 fine or referral to a youth education/prevention program
- Possession for the purpose of exporting, or taking cannabis across Canada’s borders, can result in up to 14 years in jail. (However, you can travel and fly within Canada with a legal amount of pot)
- Possessing a flowering or budding marijuana plant in public is an offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- Driving while having consumed marijuana within 2 hours of driving.
- Smoking up or vaping where not allowed (as listed below) is subject to a $1000 fine for a first offence and $5000 for a second offence.
Places where it is illegal to consume cannabis
In Ontario, it’s illegal to smoke pot or vape cannabis in the following areas:
- Indoor common areas for apartment buildings, university residences, etc.
- Enclosed public and work places
- Within 20 meters of community recreational facilities, public sports fields and spectator areas
- Hotel and motel rooms that are designated non-smoking
- Within 20 meters of schools, playgrounds and child-care centers
- Hospitals and psychiatric facilities
- Non-controlled spaces within retirement homes and independent care facilities
- In a motor vehicle or boat
- Restaurants and bars and within 9 meters of a patio
- Outdoor grounds of some Ontario government buildings
- Reserved seating areas of outdoor sports/entertainment locations
Driving while impaired by marijuana
Canada’s drug-impaired driving laws state that it’s a criminal offence to have consumed an illegal amount of drugs within 2 hours of driving. When police pull over a driver for a legal stop and have a reasonable suspicion that the person is driving under the influence of marijuana, they can determine whether the driver has consumed pot by testing whether the driver’s bodily fluids contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
There are two prohibited levels of THC for drivers:
- Persons driving with 2 to 5 nanograms (ng) of THC per 1 ml of blood face a lesser charge punishable by a summary conviction offence and may be fined up to $1000 for a first offence.
- Drivers with 5 nanograms or more of THC per 1 ml of blood face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, as well as a mandatory minimum fine of $1000 for a first offence and a mandatory jail sentence for further offences.
Driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol carries similar penalties as the more serious drug offence, and it is illegal to drive with both a blood alcohol level of .05 or more and 2.5 ng of THC.
It’s also a criminal offence if you drive with any amount of the following drugs in your system:
- Methamphetamine or 6-man (a metabolite of heroin);
- Psilocin or magic mushrooms;
- Or, 5 mg or more of GHB in 1 litre of blood.
Drug Charge Lawyer in Ontario
If you are charged with a drug-related charge, you need legal advice from an experienced drug offences lawyer at Kruse Criminal Law. A criminal conviction for a marijuana-related offence or another drug charge can have substantial and long-term consequences – it can negatively impact your liberty, employability, travel, child custody decisions and many other aspects of your life. At Kruse Law, we are on your side and have the necessary resources and expertise to provide a strong defence aimed at having the charge dismissed.