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Cannabis & the Criminal Law

Although some aspects of cannabis use have been legalized, there are still certain activities involving cannabis that are crimes. Below is a summary of criminal offences that relate to cannabis.

Cannabis crimes can have very serious consequences including jail time or substantial fines. People under 18 who commit a criminal offence are dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. If you are in any doubt about whether what you will be doing is a crime, check the legislation or talk to a lawyer. Not knowing or understanding the law is no defence to a criminal charge.

Illicit Cannabis

It is a criminal offence to knowingly possess cannabis that is not the product of a licensed retailer or legally grown at home. It is a criminal offence to knowingly distribute any cannabis that was not purchased from a licensed retailer. It is also a crime to possess, produce, sell, distribute or import anything with the intention that it will be used to produce, sell or distribute illicit cannabis.

Limts on Quantities

Dried Cannabis

It is a criminal offence for an individual to possess more than 30 grams of dried cannabis in a public place. Public places include anywhere the public is allowed as well as any vehicles parked in a public place or any vehicle that is open to being viewed by the public. There are no limits on the amount of dried cannabis that someone over 18 can have in their home.

Organizations are not allowed to possess any amount of cannabis.

It is a criminal offence for anyone under 18 to possess more than 5 grams of cannabis. This limit applies everywhere – not just public places.

Edibles, Extracts & Topicals

In the case of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and topicals containing cannabis, the federal government has established the following equivalent amounts in relation to dried cannabis.

Cannabis Equivalency Chart

Plants

People over 18 can legally have up to four cannabis plants in their home. When two or more people over 18 share a home the limit for the household is still four plants.

Possession of any cannabis plant that is budding or flowering in a public place is a crime.

It is a crime for individuals under 18 or organizations to possess cannabis plants.

Emergencies

If someone is having a life-threating drug reaction that person and anyone who seeks assistance for that person cannot be charged with possession over the allowable limit based on what is found at the scene.

Distribution

Distributing includes making cannabis available in any way directly or indirectly including sending or delivering cannabis or offering to distribute cannabis.

People over 18 can distribute up to 30 grams of cannabis and up to four cannabis plants as long as they are not budding or flowering. Other distribution is a crime. Organizations cannot distribute cannabis period.

People over 18 cannot distribute to people under 18. The fact that the person believed the youth to be 18 or older is not a defence unless the person took reasonable steps to determine their age.

No one can distribute to an organization or distribute budding or flowering cannabis plants.

Youth under 18 who distribute less than 5 grams will not face criminal prosecution but may still face penalties under provincial legislation.

Possession over the allowable limits is a criminal offence. However, when the amount of cannabis involved is less than 50 grams or the number of plants is one or two above what is allowed, individuals may receive a ticket and be fined. Individuals can avoid going to court by simply paying the fine. By paying the ticket individuals are pleading guilty to the offence but are deemed to have been given an absolute discharge. This means they have not been convicted of a criminal offence.

Sale

It is a crime for anyone to sell cannabis unless they are a licensed retailer. It is also a crime to possess cannabis for the purpose of selling it unless the seller is a licensed retailer.

Importing & Exporting

Importing or exporting, or possessing cannabis for these purposes, is a crime.

Youth

In addition to it being illegal to distribute cannabis to someone under 18, it is a criminal offence to involve anyone under 18 in the commission of any of the above offences.

Driving Offences

Drug-impaired driving and driving with blood concentrations of THC over the set limits are criminal offences. Under our provincial laws there are also serious consequences if you are convicted of one of these offences or any provincial driving offence. Driving offences are discussed in more detail here.

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