April 13th, 2017 – Today the government of Canada announced legislation to legalize recreational cannabis by July 1st, 2018, with the aim to improving public safety and reducing the negative social impacts of prohibition. Taking direction from the Cannabis task force report delivered last December, the new law will allow Canadians to purchase and carry up to 30 grams of weed within a retail system to be rolled out under supervision of Canada’s provincial governments. Production will continue to be undertaken by companies licensed by the Federal government.
The general consensus is that the proposed timeline for rolling out legalization is very ambitious since Canada’s provinces and municipalities still need to work out the details of distribution, age limit for access and taxation. Nevertheless, the legalization effort appears to have momentum as it was a high profile election promise by Justin Trudeau in 2015.
Once the law is enacted, Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to grow up to 4 plants per household. Those who break the rules will generally receive fines if caught, however if they are involved in distribution activities outside the regulated market, they can face criminal charges and up to 14 years in prison.
There will also be severe penalties for those who supply cannabis to youth under the age of 18. While youth under the age of 18 are not allowed to have access to cannabis, in an effort to reduce social harm, youth caught with up to 5 grams will not receive a criminal charge.
The government is also concerned about drugged driving. The law allows police to mandate drivers to undergo an alcohol breathalyzer test – even without reasonable suspicion or cause. Police may also ask for an oral swab to test for marijuana but only if they have reasonable suspicion. If the test turns out positive, they might have reasonable grounds to take a blood test at a police station. You could be subject to criminal sanctions if you have more than 5 nanograms of THC per millimeters of blood.