Earlier this year, Canada’s Health Minister announced that marijuana producers and the provinces need another two or three months to prepare for the legalization of marijuana after Parliament approves Bill C-45. This means that the legal sale of marijuana likely won’t happen until August or September of this year.
Since the Liberal Government announced their intention to legalize pot, Canadians have been in a confusing ‘grey area’ where you might believe that police no longer treat marijuana as an illegal substance, but that’s not true. Until the sale and consumption of marijuana has officially been legalized, anyone found in possession of pot continues to be at risk of being charged and convicted for possession. Police officers are under an obligation to enforce the law and at their discretion, can charge anyone found in possession of marijuana. And, Prime Minister Trudeau has justified the continued prosecution for marijuana-related crimes (until the change in law takes effect) on the basis that anyone currently buying pot is involved in an illegal activity that supports criminal organizations and/or street gangs.
In April 2018, Hamilton police arrested four men for being in possession of a substantial amount - 397 grams - of marijuana. All four men face charges for possession of over 30 grams of marijuana.
Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Criminal Code, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana or less than 1 gram of cannabis resin or hash is currently a summary conviction offence and, for a first offence, can result in up to 6 months in prison and/or a $1000 maximum fine. In the case of a second offence, the maximum prison term increases to one year with a maximum fine of $2000. If found in possession of a larger quantity of marijuana, you can be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and if convicted, you face a maximum sentence of life in prison. In cases of drug possession where the offence was alleged to have been committed in combination with other offences, such as assault or a prior drug conviction within a ten-year period, the accused faces a mandatory minimum sentence as prescribed by law.
Laws governing possession of marijuana for medical purposes also fall under the CDSA, which specifies the amount of pot a person may possess as long as they have a valid licence for medical marijuana. Under the law, a person with a licence for medical marijuana may possess no more than the lessor of: 150 grams of dried marijuana, or if purchasing from a licenced producer, up to 30 times (i.e. a monthly supply) of the daily quantity of dried marijuana in grams that their doctor has authorized for their use. For example, if your doctor prescribes 4 grams of marijuana per day, you are not allowed to possess more than 120 grams (30 x 4 grams). There are further limits under the law for the number of marijuana plants a person (who is authorized to do so) may have at their residence and the maximums depend on whether the plants are grown indoors or outside.
Once marijuana is decriminalized in Canada, a person may possess up to one ounce or 30 grams of cannabis. Also, depending on the province, you may also have up to 4 marijuana plants for your personal consumption. New regulations will also be enacted to govern ‘illicit cannabis’ use, such as purchasing cannabis products not grown legally or distributing/sharing pot with a minor. You can learn more about what’s legal in terms of marijuana possession in Ontario at the Province of Ontario’s website on cannabis legalization.
If you have been arrested on any drug charge, call the Ted Yoannou Criminal Law office. Our experienced legal team will ensure that your legal rights are being upheld and will explore every defence aimed at having the charges against you dismissed.