There are several things to think about as we get closer to the legalization of pot on October 17th. As many know, the Federal Government pushed the date back from July 1st when it became obvious that all levels of government were not ready to deal with such a significant change in our law.
The Federal Government has the right to abolish the existing criminal laws restricting the use of marihuana. However, it is important to understand that in our federal system, the provinces (and territories) are taking different approaches to regulation. Home cultivation will be allowed except for two provinces, Quebec and Manitoba, who are banning it.
Many lawyers are predicting that American customs and border patrol officers will be asking visiting Canadians questions about their drug histories. Although cannabis is legal in many U.S. States, it is still a prohibited substance under U.S. federal law. In fact, admitting to smoking marihuana to a U.S. Border officer can get you barred from the United States for life.
Also, keep in mind that until Oct. 17th, the current Canadian law is in place. Police can still charge people for possession.
As of October 17th, Canadians will be permitted to:
• purchase fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, plants and seeds for cultivation from either a provincially or territorially regulated retailer, or where that option is not available, directly from a federally licensed producer;
• possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or its equivalent in public;
• share up to 30 grams (or its equivalent) of legal cannabis and legal cannabis products with other adults;
• in most Provinces, cultivate up to four plants at home (four plants total per household); and
• prepare various cannabis products (such as edibles) at home for personal use, provided that no dangerous organic solvents are used in the process.
Again, the practical details of implementing legalization have been left mostly to the provinces. In some provinces, the stores will be run by the provincial governments like the liquor stores. This will be the case in Quebec and the Maritimes. Elsewhere, the private sector will take the lead. The recently elected Ontario Government has reversed the previous Government’s plan so we will join the western provinces allowing sales by the private sector.
All Canadian jurisdictions have settled on either 18 or 19 years old as the legal age for consumption. This harmonizes the legal ages for drinking alcohol and consuming marijuana.
The rules on where you will be able to smoke pot will vary from Province to Province. Generally, people can consume cannabis on private property and in private residences. However, in most provinces, landlords will be able to prohibit the consumption of marihuana in their rental units. In Ontario, condominium boards will be permitted to restrict home cultivation entirely, even in units that are occupied by its owners.
All provinces will be authorized to charge “high” drivers with impaired driving. This will likely include mandatory roadside impaired driving tests. Police also will be able to demand that a driver provide an "oral fluid sample" (ie saliva) if there is reasonable cause to suspect that a driver is impaired by drugs. A driver who has a blood level of more than five nanograms of THC (the primary psychoactive found in cannabis), or has been drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time, will face a fine and the possibility of jail time.
Will there be amnesty for those previously convicted of possession of cannabis? One estimate from Statistics Canada is that 76 per cent of the 55,000 cannabis related charges in 2016 in Canada were for simple possession. Stay tuned.
Michael Cobb is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions, for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.