The police spend $2 billion to $3 billion every year to investigate marijuana offences. Despite these efforts, teenagers in Canada continue to be amongst the heaviest users of cannabis. As a result, on April 13, 2017, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. The purpose of the Cannabis Act is to control the production, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana. An important component of this new legislation is to restrict youth access to marijuana and push organized crime out of the cannabis business. The imposition of harsh criminal penalties hopes to deter individuals from breaking the law, particularly those who export and provide marijuana to youth.
The federal and provincial government will share responsibilities over the regulation of the marijuana industry. The federal government will set strict requirements for producers who manufacture and grow cannabis. These rules and standards will specify the types of cannabis products that may be sold, the labelling and packaging requirements for products, standardization in potency and serving sizes, prohibition of certain ingredients, limitations on promotion, and the tracking of marijuana from seed to sale in order to counteract diversion to the illegal market. Therefore, those who are permitted to sell marijuana must keep sufficient records of their activities. Only federally licensed producers have the ability to sell cannabis to the public. An employee of an organization that is authorized under the Act to sell, produce and distribute cannabis is permitted to do anything that is prohibited under the Cannabis Act, so long as it is part of their employment functions and duties. Individuals will be prohibited from distributing cannabis that they know is illicit cannabis, which is marijuana that was produced, sold, or distributed by someone who is prohibited from doing so under the Cannabis Act.
On the other hand, provincial governments will be able to increase the minimum age when people can access marijuana (but not lower it), lower the amount allowed for personal possession, restrict where marijuana can be consumed, such as in public places or in vehicles, and implement additional rules for cannabis grown in homes, such as decreasing the number of plants permitted per residence or limiting the locations where cannabis cultivation is allowed.
The new marijuana legislation will allow adults who are 18 years or older to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent in a non-dried form and share up to 30 grams of cannabis with other adults. Individuals will be allowed to grow up to 4 cannabis plants, up to a maximum height of 100 cm, per residence, which are strictly for personal use from a licensed seed or seedlings. In addition, people can create cannabis products, such as drinks and food, in their residence, as long as organic solvents are not used. People may also purchase fresh or dried cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially licensed retailer. In provinces where the government has not yet or chooses not to establish a regulated retail framework, people will be able to purchase cannabis online from a federally licensed producer. In addition, once proper rules are developed for the production and sale of edibles, marijuana-containing foods will become available for purchase.
The sanctions enforced for breaking the new marijuana laws will be in proportion to the seriousness of the offence committed. Penalties would range from simple tickets and warnings for minor offences, to criminal prosecution and possible jail time for serious offences. The illegal distribution or sale of cannabis, and the production of marijuana above personal cultivation limits or with combustible solvents can lead to a ticket for a small amount, or up to 14 years of imprisonment for larger quantities. Possession over the legal limit would amount to a ticket or up to 5 years in jail. Taking marijuana across the Canadian border could put you in jail for up to 14 years.
Even after the legalization of marijuana, those individuals who were convicted of marijuana offences in the past will continue to maintain a criminal record. In other words, there will be no blanket pardon. Moreover, the current framework that governs access to marijuana for medical purposes will continue to function even after this new Act is implemented. Until the bill is passed by Parliament, marijuana will continue to remain an illegal substance. If it is approved, the bill could become law no later than July 2018. Consequently, for the time being, Canadians will have continue to respect the existing laws that are in place in regards to marijuana, and cannot rely on its future decriminalization to bypass current prohibitions.