How Does Legalization Affect Underage Cannabis Possession?

October 31, 2018

Canada’s recent federal legalization of cannabis has been making headlines around the world, but how legalization affects youth and underage cannabis possession is rarely mentioned.

Federally, the minimum age for marihuana possession is 18. But, as with tobacco and alcohol, individual provinces can set their own age limits. In Ontario, the minimum age is 19 to buy, use, possess or grow cannabis for recreational use.

This article reviews the impacts the current cannabis laws has on underage possession.

Legal for Adults, Criminal Offence for Youth

This presents a unique situation where a substance that is legal for most of the population can result in a criminal offence for youth.

An adult can legally possess 30g of cannabis. If someone underage is caught with over 5g of marihuana they can face criminal charges. In comparison, youth found with alcohol are more likely to receive a Provincial Offences citation rather than a criminal charge.

The legislation that legalized recreational cannabis created new offences surrounding youth possession. It also created new criminal offences for giving or selling cannabis to a youth, and for using a youth to commit a cannabis-related crime.

Putting Young Adults at Risk of Criminal Charges

Youths and young adults could be criminally charged for sharing cannabis with their friends and peers. A 19-year-old could who passes a joint to their 18-year-old friend, who may only be a few weeks younger, is committing an offence and could face penalties up to 14-years in jail. Further, a 17-year-old passing a joint to another 17-year-old could also face trafficking to minor charges.  

At a party or any social gather, a young adult sharing cannabis with a group of friends faces legal consequences if anyone in the group is underage. Regardless if they are classmates or long-time friends with only a few weeks difference in age.

While these circumstances meet the legal grounds for criminal charges the potential punishment appears to more severe than necessary. Specifically when compared to the legal consequences and punishments were alcohol or tobacco are shared in similar social settings and circumstances.

Minor Violations Resulting in Criminal Charges Instead of Tickets

For adults, minor violations are unlikely to result in criminal charges. In most cases, they will receive a ticket or a summons for a Provincial Offence. For minors, there is currently no ticket or summons option available for police. For the time being, police will likely use their discretion when considering whether to arrest and charge for minor violations.

The new drug laws have legalized recreational cannabis for adults, while simultaneously criminalizing possession for youth.

What to do if Facing Underage Cannabis Possession Charges in Toronto

Youths now need to be proactive when facing drug charges. A youth criminal record can affect your opportunities and your life. If you are facing underage cannabis possession charges in Toronto, you need a criminal defence lawyer.

William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with over a decade of experience in drug offences. He understands that you are more than your charges and makes his clients are his priority. Contact William Jaksa today for a question or to book an appointment.

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