It’s been gracing the front of almost every newspaper, on the tongues of this year’s political candidates, and becoming the topic of choice around the water cooler: The end of cannabis prohibition in Canada has finally come.
Canada is now the first G7 country to legalize cannabis on the federal level, making it legal to sell cannabis across the country to adults over the age of 19 (or 18 in Quebec and Alberta).
Cannabis has been under prohibition in Canada since 1923 when it was included in the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill, and later in the Act to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and other Drugs. Rising in popularity in Canada in the 1930s and experiencing a resurgence in the 1960s, Canadians have been fighting for the decriminalization of cannabis since 1972.
Canada never decriminalized cannabis.
Cannabis was made legal for medical purposes in 2001 with the passing of the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, evolving into what is now known as the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). It wasn’t until Justin Trudeau took the office of Prime Minister in 2015 that the legalization of cannabis was on the table, and Bill C-45 or “The Cannabis Act” passed in Canada’s Senate on June 7, 2018.
As of today, it is now legal to purchase, grow, and use cannabis in Canada.
What does this mean for Canada and the lives of every day Canadians? Here are some important aspects of what Canada’s legalization truly means for Canada and its citizens:
Purchasing Legal Cannabis
While all Canadians will be able to log on to their respective provincial government’s sales portal, not all Canadians will have the opportunity to visit a brick and mortar shop today. For instance, in Ontario where Doug Ford recently reversed the Liberal’s position on keeping cannabis in the public realm, there will be no brick-and-mortar stores where there was once the promise of 40+ Ontario Cannabis Stores. In Northwest Territories, there will be no legal cannabis stores open amidst concerns of the potential for cannabis addiction.
Age to Purchase Cannabis
In every province other than Quebec and Alberta, the legal age to purchase cannabis is 19 (18 in the aforementioned provinces). Recently, as Quebec changed the provincial government, there have been threats to raise the legal purchase age in Quebec to 21 amidst growing concerns about the age to purchase legal cannabis being too low, in light of the fact that the human brain is still in development until the age of 25.
Possession of Cannabis
As of today, all adults who are legal to purchase cannabis may possess up to 20 grams of legal cannabis, dried or in equivalent non-dried form. You may also share (but not sell) up to 30 grams with another person. According to the Government of Canada, 1 gram of cannabis is equivalent to: 1 gram of dried cannabis, 5 grams of fresh cannabis, 15 grams of edible product (although edibles won’t be sold in Canada yet), 70 grams of liquid product, .25 grams of concentrate, or 1 cannabis plant seed.
Federal law does not limit the amount of cannabis that may be possessed within a single private home.
As of today, every household in Canada will be able to legally cultivate up to 4 plants for personal use, with the exception of Manitoba and Quebec. In British Columbia, it’s law that plants must be hidden from public view. The right to cultivate up to 4 plants per household cannot be transferred from one household to another.
International and Domestic Travel
There’s been a bit of a back and forth about the issue of Canada-U.S. border crossings, and there had been a strong threat that would disallow any workers from the Canadian cannabis industry from entering the U.S. Last week there was a bit of a relief as it was announced that workers would “generally” be allowed to enter the U.S., as long as they didn’t have a history of use with the plant. The issue of denying anyone who has ever used cannabis is still a topic of debate.
Domestically, while it’s forbidden to pack bags of cannabis in a plane’s cargo, each person can legally fly within Canada with 30 grams of cannabis.
Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis
Canadians who use cannabis better be prepared to follow similar practices to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence of cannabis has become a hot topic within Canada’s law enforcement, as well as a heated human rights issue as Canadians feel stigmatized and punished for cannabis use.
According to Canada’s Department of Justice, those who are caught driving a motor vehicle with 2-5 nanograms of THC in their system could face a maximum fine of $1,000. If caught with over 5 nanograms, it’s a mandatory $1,000 fine for the first offense, a mandatory 30 days imprisonment for a second offense, and a mandatory 120 days imprisonment for a third offense.
The Dawning of a New Era?
Some early and current critics of Canada’s legalization see the confines of legal cannabis in Canada to be echoing of prohibitionist sentiments. We will have to wait to see how legal cannabis in Canada unfolds, as truly, it’s something this country is new at, truly, all Canadians are completely unsure of how it will turn out.
Let’s just take a collective deep breath in of our legal cannabis, and hope for the best.