This summer, a plan was announced to legalize the sale of cannabis in Canada by August 1st, 2018. Among Canadians there is a lot of uncertainty on the potential legal implications. Among the biggest questions is how new laws and regulations will affect drug charges.
The sale and distribution of cannabis will be determined at a provincial level. In Ontario, for example, Premier Kathleen Wynne had suggested that cannabis would be sold at LCBO stores. Currently, it’s looking like this may not be the case, however the stores will be government-owned.
Although the sale and distribution is managed provincially, the laws for legalization and regulation of cannabis will be federal. Legalization is going to exact strict drug laws and penalties. Criminal law firms in Toronto need to prepare for the changes.
For a clear picture of how new laws will affect drug offences, we take a look at the Cannabis Act.
THE CANNABIS ACT
The Cannabis Act is the proposed legal framework for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. It controls:
The primary goals are protecting youth, controlled access, regulation, and criminal penalties. It will not affect the existing medical cannabis program.
For changes to the Act, consult our Cannabis Act Revisions article.
Youth Protection Under New Drug Laws
One of the core components of the Cannabis Act is restricting access to youth. Selling or providing cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 will be met with severe penalties. In Ontario, the age restriction is under 19.
This regulation includes the introduction of 2 new criminal offences:
- Selling or Providing Cannabis to youth (under 18, under 19 in Ontario)
- Using a youth for drug offences
The above offences will come with maximums of 14 years in jail. The best criminal lawyers will be aware of these new offences and potential maximums.
Additionally, there will be regulation on promoting cannabis. Products, packaging, and labeling that appeal to youth are prohibited. As well as promoting cannabis where it can be seen by youth, or selling through self-service displays and machines. Violations can be met with jail time or fines up to $5 million.
For more detailed explanation of drug impaired driving and What a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is the article Drug Impaired Driving covers these issues.
CONTROLLED ACCESS: LEGAL PURCHASE & POSSESSION OF CANNABIS
The Cannabis Act’s plan for controlled access includes regulation for:
- Making Products
Possession of 30 grams or less of dried cannabis will be legal. This also applies to the non-dried equivalent. It will only be legal for those 18 and over, or 19 and over in Ontario.
Cannabis can be legally shared with other adults, should the Act pass. Up to 30 grams of legally obtained cannabis can be shared. However, it cannot be sold. Sharing with a youth can be met with up to 14 years of jail time.
The number of legal cannabis plants is per residence, not by individual. There can be up to 4 plants of 100 cm or less, regardless of the number of people in a household. It can only be intended for personal use and seeds must come from a licensed source. A drug lawyer would recommend keeping proof of legal purchase of seeds or seedlings.
Making Cannabis Products
Other products, like edibles, will be available once regulations for their production and sale can be established. People will be able to make their own food and drink products at home. Under the provision that they are made for personal use and do not contain organic solvents.
CANNABIS REGULATION: RULES & STANDARDS
The responsibility will be shared amongst all levels of government. The federal government sets the rules for producers, growers, and manufacturers. They also determine rules and standardization of products, labeling, servings, ingredients, practices, promotions, and sales tracking.
While the federal government oversees the production, selling and distribution side, provincial and territorial governments decide on drug laws that affect the individual. For example, increasing the minimum required age, reducing possession limit, stricter laws for growing, and restricting where consumption is allowed.
Criminal defence law firms in Toronto and other communities need to be aware of these local regulations. In Ontario for instance, it has been suggested that consumption of cannabis in vehicles and public spaces will be prohibited. This may not apply to all other provinces.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR NEW DRUG LAWS
The Cannabis Act will introduce new drug offences in Canada. In addition to restricting youth access, they are also intended to reduce organized crime and provide quality assurance. Some of the new drug offences include:
- Illegal distribution/sale
- Possession over the limit
- Production beyond personal use
- Production with combustible solvents
- Taking cannabis or products across Canadian borders
The criminal penalties for these new drug offences are dependent on the intent and severity of the offence. For example, possession of small amounts beyond the limit may be met with warnings or fines. However, serious infractions could result in criminal prosecution or jail time. Crossing the border with cannabis, for example, will result in imprisonment for up to 14 years.
With these upcoming drug law changes, it is important to know what to do if you have been charged with drug offences. A criminal defence lawyer, experienced in drug offences, should be consulted as soon as possible.
HOW WILL LEGALIZATION AFFECT DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING OFFENCES?
Community groups had voiced concerns over the effects of legalization on drug-impaired driving. The Task Force on Cannabis Legislation and Regulation has responded with strict regulations. If the Cannabis Act is passed, drug-impaired driving will have stricter laws and more enforcement.
DUI lawyers have a stream of new considerations with these proposed changes. Much of the proposed drugged driving regulations are similar to driving under the influence offences. There will be zero tolerance for young drivers, novice drivers, and commercial drivers. And penalties will increase with larger fines and longer suspensions.
The Canadian Department of Justice’s proposed changes for strengthening impaired driving laws is displayed in the infographic below.
CRIMINAL DEFENCE IN-POST LEGALIZATION CANADA
Existing criminal offences will not be affected or reduced if they occurred before legalization. An experienced drug lawyer will be required if you or a loved one has been charged. The decision to legalize is also not yet guaranteed. While the date for a decision is set for the end of July 2018, the decision to legalize could still go either way.
Additionally, the laws, regulation, and legalization of marijuana will not affect other drug offences. A large part of the Cannabis Act is dedicated to reducing criminal activity. If you are facing drug offence charges, you need the best criminal defence law firm in Toronto. Contact William Jaksa today, for experienced, professional representation.