Legalization of Cannabis in Canada: What You Should Know

As of October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana was declared legal in Canada. However, although cannabis is legal, rules regarding consumption, possession, production and sale still remain in effect and those rules carry with them the potential for criminal consequences.

Before consuming, possessing or growing your own cannabis, you should be aware of the following:


Where Can I Buy Cannabis in Canada?

Legally you are only permitted to buy cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store website. In Ontario, you must be 19 to purchase or consume cannabis.

The provincial government of Ontario is expected to introduce a private retail model as of April 1, 2019. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will regulate, authorize and grant store licences.


Where Can I Smoke/Consume/Vape Cannabis?

  1. A private residence so long as it is permitted by the owner (landlord, condo corporation etc);
  2. Many outdoor public places(e.g. sidewalks, parks) except:
    • On school grounds or any public area within 20m of those school grounds
    • On children’s playgrounds or any public area within 20m of those playgrounds
    • In child care centres or places where home care is provided
    • On hospital grounds or within 9m of an entrance/exit to a hospital
    • On publicly owned sports fields or community recreational centres or any public area within 20m of those fields
    • On patios or within 9m of those patios
  3. Designated guest roomsin hotels, motels and inns
  4. Residential vehicles or boats


How Much Cannabis Can I Possess?

While in public, you can possess up to 30 grams (dried or equivalent to non-dried). You can share those 30 grams with others so long as they are 19 or older. Should you possess more than 30 grams in public, the penalty ranges from a ticket to five years in jail, depending on the amount.

Should you sell or share cannabis with a minor, you can be charged with one of two criminal offences, both of which carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

If you choose to grow your own cannabis, you can possess a maximum of four marijuana plants for personal use. Should you possess more than four plants, the penalty ranges from a ticket (maximum $5000.00) to fourteen years in jail.

Cannabis that is not lawfully purchased or grown is still considered to be “illicit cannabis”, and its possession and use is not lawful. It may look, smell and taste the same as the stuff that you purchase or grow legally, but nevertheless, it’s prohibited.


Where Can I Travel with Cannabis?

If you are traveling within Canada, taking a domestic flight for example, you can take up to 30 grams with you. However, you cannot bring cannabis on board international flights or over the American border so hopefully your Toronto to Victoria flight doesn’t need to make an emergency landing in the US!


What Rules Apply to Driving & Cannabis?

Driving while under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Law enforcement officers are supposedly trained to detect drug-impaired driving. They enforce drug-impaired driving laws first on the roadside using oral fluid drug screening equipment. If the driver’s result is positive, the driver may be arrested and taken to a police detachment or medical facility to undergo additional testing.

If the oral fluid drug screening equipment produces a negative result, yet the police officer continues to see indications of drug use/impairment, they can demand that the driver participate in Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST). If the driver passes the SFST, they are released. If they fail, they may be arrested for impaired driving.

Note that a failure to comply with the demand for roadside testing can result in a separate criminal charge, which carries the same, if not a greater penalty than driving while impaired by alcohol.

After an arrest, the police may either demand a blood samples to determine whether the blood drug concentration over the legal limit or demand that the driver undergo a 12-step Drug Evaluation Expert Evaluation (DRE).


When Am I “Impaired” by Cannabis?

To be impaired by cannabis, the driver must have between 2 nanograms (ng) and 5 ng of THC per ml of blood (less serious offence) or 5 ng of THC or more per ml of blood (more serious offence). In addition to the Criminal Code offence of impaired driving (which itself carries a penalty of $1000.00 minimum fine and a 12 month license suspension), the penalty for falling between 2 and 5ng is a maximum $1000.00 fine while the penalty for over 5ng is a minimum $1000.00 fine.

Technically, and criminal lawyers love to be technical, as with alcohol, you could be considered “impaired” on less than the above amounts and you could be over those amounts and be not impaired (depending on your tolerance) and still be convicted for being over the legal limit.

As with many new laws in Canada, these proscribed limits are untested and are likely to be challenged on constitutional and scientific grounds in the first few years of the legislation.

We note that all of the above applies to recreational cannabis only. Medical marijuana provisions are still in place and they provide a separate lawful basis to possess or consume cannabis.

If you are an individual charged with a cannabis-related offence or a business seeking to lawfully operate in the cannabis space, contact us today.


Relevant Links:

Cannabis Act:

Ontario Cannabis Store:


Article written by Brittany Smith, J.D.

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