The Cannabis Act, 2018
(Note: the following information applies mostly to recreational marijuana)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put into law his campaign promise of legalizing recreational marijuana. A victory for supporters of drug policy reform, libertarianism, and cannabis users. It’s important, though, if you use or are planning to use recreational marijuana, that you know your rights and responsibilities.
First, the legal age: in every province and territory except Alberta and Quebec, the legal age to buy, possess, or use cannabis will be set at 19. In Alberta, the legal age is 18 (the federal minimum), while in Quebec, the current age is 18, however the newly-elected CAQ has said they will change it to 21 (though this may not be such a good idea, potentially creating a black market centred around 18- to 20-year-olds).
The maximum sentence for selling or providing marijuana to a minor is fourteen years in prison; on par with serious offences such as threatening to commit or facilitating a terrorist act, threatening to commit a nuclear offence, aggravated assault, and human trafficking. As one lawyer put it, “The 18-year-old permanent resident who passes a joint to their 17- or 16-year-old friend could be detained, they could be incarcerated."
It is important to learn the health effects of pot, and how to use it responsibly, before usage. The risks of cannabis are greatest for youth and young adults, and younger you are when you begin cannabis use and the more often and longer you use it, the more likely that it will have a bigger impact on your brain. At any age, cannabis use affects the way the brain functions.
Physical short-term effects include damaged blood vessels, decreased blood pressure that can cause fainting, or an increased heart rate, which can be dangerous to people with heart conditions. Cannabis use can lead to psychotic episodes characterized by paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
Long-term effects, meanwhile, include harm to your memory, concentration, intelligence, and ability to think, learn, and make decisions. As noted above, this is especially bad with frequent use and when cannabis usage begins during adolescence. These effects can last from several days, to months or longer after using cannabis. They may not be fully reversible even when cannabis use stops. In terms of mental health effects, frequent cannabis use has been associated with an increased risk of suicide, depression, anxiety disorders, and in some people, psychosis or schizophrenia.
Here’s another key risk: many people overlook this effect, but smoking marijuana over time can severely harm your lung health, similar to smoking tobacco. This could put you at risk for things like bronchitis, lung infections, chronic cough, and increased mucus buildup in the chest.
You should not use cannabis if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It poses a risk to the fetus or newborn child.
While the ability to legalize and prosecute marijuana laws is federal, the specific laws around it (age limit, where to smoke it, how much you can possess at one time, etc.) fall under provincial jurisdiction. So here are Ontario’s most notable cannabis laws.
Maximum amount legal to possess: you will be able to possess a maximum of 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried cannabis in public at once.
Maximum amount legal to grow: Four plants per residence (not per person)
Where to buy recreational marijuana: People 19 and over will be able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. Online orders will be delivered safely and securely. Consumers will be required to verify their age to accept delivery and no packages will be left unattended at the door. This will be the only legal option for purchasing recreational marijuana.
Where you can smoke marijuana:
- private residences (not including those that double as workplaces; e.g. retirement homes)
- many outdoor public places
- residential vehicles and boats (must meet certain criteria to be considered residential)
- scientific research and testing facilities (if for scientific research/testing purposes)
- designated areas in retirement homes, supportive housing, etc.
Where you cannot smoke marijuana:
- indoor common areas in condos/apartments
- enclosed public places and workplaces
- school and places where children gather (including public areas within 20 m of a schoolyard/playground)
- hospitals, hospices, and care homes (including 9 m from the entrance/exit of hospitals and other medical facilities)
- publicly-owned sports fields (not including golf courses)
- moving vehicles and boats
- on restaurants and patios (including public areas within 9 m of a patio)
- on outdoor grounds of government buildings and community recreational facilities
Cannabis and the border:
It is illegal to take marijuana across the border, whether leaving or entering Canada, and whether cannabis is legal in the jurisdiction you’re entering or not. This also applies even if you are authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes. If you are entering Canada and you have cannabis with you in any form, you must declare it to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Not declaring cannabis in your possession at the Canadian border is a serious offence. You could face arrest and prosecution. You could be denied entry into another country if you have: involvement in the legal cannabis industry in Canada or have previously used cannabis or any substance prohibited by local laws.
It’s illegal to drive or work impaired, and if police suspect you of driving under the influence, you may be subjected to a roadside test. The penalties of driving high are severe.
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