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Cannabis legalization FAQs

Thursday, October 18, 2018 @ 10:47 AM | By Jacob Stilman

Jacob Stilman %>
Jacob Stilman
The big day finally arrived and Canadians are able to consume cannabis products legally, at least within the confines of our spanking new Cannabis Act.

As we embark on this new leg of our national journey people are bound to have many questions, and it is important to stress that the new law is not going to lead to a free-for-all on the marijuana front. The Cannabis Act is designed to operate in conjunction with provincial legislation, so rules respecting distribution, consumption, workplace consequences and so forth will not be uniform across the country.

This article attempts to provide answers to some of those likely questions and concerns which clients may ask.

Q: Now that cannabis is legal, are there any restrictions on how much I can possess?

A: The Cannabis Act makes it legal to possess the equivalent of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. However, for young persons (those under 18) the maximum amount of cannabis allowable is five grams of dried product. Therefore, having more than this amount in your possession can result in criminal charges, which may be prosecuted either by way of summary or indictable proceedings.

The maximum sentence for an indictable offence is five years less a day, and for a summary proceeding it is six months. If the offender is a young person a violation of this provision triggers a youth sentence pursuant the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Note, however, that the 30-gram limit is with respect to cannabis being possessed in a public place, and “public place” includes a motor vehicle. Thus, you can have a much larger stash stored on your private property, but technically you would have to have it brought there in no more than 30 gram-at-a-time shipments.

Also, each province can set its own rules on who may purchase cannabis so the age at which one may lawfully purchase and possess cannabis will vary province to province.

Q: Thirty grams of dried weed is fine, but I like to consume my cannabis as an edible. If I’m carrying a bag of weed gummies that weighs more than 30 grams, am I in trouble?

A: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his crew are right on this — and they recognize that different folks like different smokes (or chews, drinks, vapes etc).

Schedule 3 of the Cannabis Act establishes weight equivalencies for the various cannabis products which are available. One gram of dried cannabis is equivalent to five grams of fresh product, 15 grams of “solids containing cannabis” (which would be an edible) or 70 grams of  “non-solids containing cannabis” (presumably a liquid, which is to be distinguished from a “concentrate”).

For a concentrate the equivalency is set at 0.25 grams of dried product. All of this means that the legislation is flexible enough to account for cannabis in its many forms and variations.

Q: I was hanging out in the park passing around a big fatty with some friends, and now I’m being charged with distribution to a minor. I’m 19, but my friends were all 17, and now they tell me I’m in real trouble.

A: Yup — you are in trouble. Pursuant to the Cannabis Act an adult person may not distribute weed to a young person (anyone under 18).

Technically, passing a joint to your kid brother would be captured under this provision. The penalties for this offence are significant and can proceed by indictment with a 14-year maximum, or summarily with an 18-month maximum. It is also an offence to possess cannabis for the purpose of such unlawful distribution. So, don’t hang around a schoolyard with a bag of loose joints, even if the total weight is under 30 grams.

The reality is that merely sharing a joint with a young person is unlikely to attract the attentions of law enforcement, in much the same way that no person would likely have ever been prosecuted under the previous laws for trafficking simply by passing a joint down the line (which technically would constitute trafficking). The legislation is really intended to target actual sales and trafficking to minors, as opposed to purely social interactions.

Q: I would like to grow my own supply. Am I permitted to do this? Are there restrictions in how many plants I can have?

A: Yes, and yes, farmer Bob. You are permitted to grow your own, but only up to four plants. Here is where things can get a bit silly because the term “plant” is not defined in the Cannabis Act.

This means that having four mature plants ready for harvest, but also having four additional plant cuttings that are being readied in a growth medium and are just beginning to sprout roots, could be a violation of this provision. Also, if you and your roommate/spouse/child decide to grow together at home, you don’t get to grow four plants each.

The four-plant restriction applies to the number of plants permitted under one roof and is not a function of the number of occupants within the residence.

Q: My completely legal four plant home-grow produced a bumper crop, and I now have three pounds of pristine product which is way more weed than I can possibly consume myself. Can I sell it?

A: This is a tricky one. A person is allowed to “distribute” up to 30 grams of weed to other people, and distribution is defined in the Cannabis Act to include administering, giving, transferring, transporting, sending, delivering, providing or otherwise making available in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, and offering to distribute.

It would seem that the act of “selling” weed would be included within this broad category, even though that word is not included in the definition. But not so fast there, Walter White. The Act contains specific provisions which address and govern the sale of cannabis. Only “authorized persons” can sell cannabis and distribution must be in accordance with the governing provincial legislation.

So, can you still sell your own? Most likely the answer is still yes, as long as the distribution is a completely private affair, you are not making the sales available to the public, and any one transfer of weed is limited to 30 grams. If the recipient of your largesse wants to give you a “tip” in acknowledgement of your fine service, that’s probably onside.

However, as provincial laws will govern the actual sale and distribution within each jurisdiction, you will want to check the law in your region of the country.

This is part one of a two-part series.

Jacob Stilman is a criminal defence lawyer at Lo Greco Stilman LLP with extensive experience defending impaired driving and drug offences.

Photo credit / mrhighsky ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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