On October 17th, Canada legalized recreational marijuana but also passed tough laws in the Cannabis Act to prevent young people from consuming pot. The Cannabis Act is a Federal statute and was enacted with the purpose of protecting public safety and youth safety through laws and penalties pertaining to the possession and distribution of marijuana. However, the Federal government is sharing some aspects of marijuana regulation with the provinces, such as the legal age for consuming marijuana, which is 19 years-of-age in Ontario and most other provinces (except for Quebec and Alberta, where the legal age is 18).
How much Pot can you legally possess?
Under the new regulations, persons who are of legal age may:
- Possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis in public, or the equivalent amount in non-dried product. Note that the legal amount of cannabis by weight is different for fresh, edible and liquid products or cannabis seeds. For example, 30 grams of dried cannabis are equivalent to 150 grams of fresh cannabis.
- Grow up to 4 cannabis plants for personal use per residence, as long as cannabis plants are grown from licensed seeds or seedlings.
- Share up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis with other adults of legal age
- Buy cannabis from a provincially-licensed retailer
- Make cannabis products for personal use; however, organic solvents may not be used to make concentrated products.
New marijuana laws to protect youths
The Ontario government set the legal age for marijuana possession to 19, to be consistent with the legal age for consuming alcohol and also to discourage pot use among young people. Further, the Cannabis Act makes it a criminal offence for an under-age person to possess or share more than 5 grams of marijuana.
The Cannabis Act also contains two other offences which are intended to protect young people- a person who commits these offences faces a maximum penalty of 14 years of jail:
- It’s a criminal offence to give or sell a cannabis product to someone under the legal age.
- It’s a criminal offence to use an under-age person to commit a cannabis-related crime.
These laws are stricter than the laws governing alcohol use. Although it’s against the law to provide alcohol to persons under the legal age, parents can legally give their children a drink. By contrast, a parent or older sibling that shares a joint with, or provides pot to, a family member under the legal age could be charged with a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of 14 years in jail. Similarly, a 19-year-old who shares a joint with their 17-year-old friend faces a serious criminal charge.
Critics believe that a 14-year maximum jail sentence for providing pot to minors is ridiculously severe. And, youths will be disproportionately targeted by these laws, but this is the segment of society that the new laws are purportedly trying to protect. The 14-year maximum sentence is on par with penalties for very serious crimes such as child luring, aggravated assault and human trafficking.
There has been consideration given to amending the Cannabis Act to provide exceptions for offences involving giving marijuana to youths. One proposed exception is for persons who are less than two years older than the minor to whom they are giving the pot. Another would be to except parents who share joints or marijuana products in their own home with children who are 16 or older. However, at this point in time, both of these practices are a criminal offence under current law.
If you were detained or charged with cannabis possession or another drug-related offence, speak to a Toronto drug offences lawyer at Yoannou and Associates. Our experienced and compassionate team will fight to have the charges dismissed or achieve the best possible outcome for your case.