Lead image The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

Canada's Legal Pot Plan Comes with Some Harsh Caveats

Selling to a minor could be punished by up to 14 years in jail.

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Apr 13 2017, 7:54pm

Lead image The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

The Canadian government unrolled the Cannabis Act Thursday and said that its priorities are keeping the public safe by restricting access of weed to youth and making a dent in organized crime. But the Liberal government's long-anticipated plan for legalizing cannabis focused heavily on criminality, while being scant on details about how weed will be produced and sold.

In summary, the Liberals have set a federal legal age limit for purchasing pot at 18, though provinces can alter that as they see fit. Possession of 30 grams of cannabis will be legal, edibles will be legal with restrictions, and Canadians will be permitted to grow four plants per residence. Producers must be licensed with the federal government, but the retail model as to how weed is sold will be left up to the provinces.

In the meantime, there are new proposed laws and changes to laws that could yield serious consequences.

  • Selling to a minor under the age of 18 or using a minor to commit a cannabis-related offense could land you in jail for up to 14 years for an indictable (more serious) offense. The minimum penalty is a $15,000 CAD fine and/or 18 months in prison for a summary offense. By comparison, establishments who sell liquor to minors in British Columbia are subject to $7,500-$10,000 CAD in fines or a brief suspension.
  • Possession of more than 30 grams of dried flower; knowingly possessing weed that comes from outside the legal system; possessing a flowering plant into a public place is punishable by up to five years in jail for an indictable offense or a $5,000 CAD fine and/or six months in jail for a summary conviction.
  • Possessing more than four harvesting plants could result in 14 years of jail time for a summary conviction or a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail for a summary conviction; possessing more than four non-flowering plants is punishable by up to five years in jail for an indictable offense or a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail for a summary conviction.
  • Selling cannabis without a license could land you up to 14 years in jail for an indictable offense or a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail for a summary conviction.

In addition, the government is aggressively tackling the issue of stoned driving.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told reporters the new regulations will make Canada's impaired driving laws among the toughest in the world.

This will include the use of "roadside oral fluid drug screeners," which police officers will be equipped with. Cops will be allowed to demand saliva samples from anyone they suspect has consumed drugs.

If a cop has "reasonable grounds" to think a crime has been committed they could then demand a drug evaluation (by another officer trained to execute them) or a blood sample.

The laws will include THC limits, not unlike blood-alcohol limits, though officials said Thursday that it's difficult to determine how much THC has to be consumed for a person to be impaired.

Penalties for driving violations are as follows:

  • Having between two to five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving would be punishable by a $1,000 CAD fine.
  • Having five or more nanograms per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving could be considered a summary or indictable offense, punishable by a fine of $1,000 on the lower end to a maximum of ten years in jail for repeat offenders.
  • Having booze and THC in your system would also be a hybrid offense (indictable or summary) and would again be punishable by a fine of $1,000 on the lower end to a maximum of ten years in jail for repeat offenders.

The government expects the provinces to begin working on how to roll out legalization with the goal of enacting the new laws by the end of next June.

With files from Justin Ling

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

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