Area of Law: Cannabis Law
Answer # 2330
Cannabis Act (Federal)Region: Ontario Answer # 2330
Regulated medical cannabis became legal in Canada in 2001.
Recreational cannabis became legal on October 17, 2018.
Why was the Cannabis Act created?
The federal Cannabis Act was introduced to legalize, regulate, and restrict access to cannabis.
More specifically, the Federal Government has stated that its primary purpose of the new law was to:
- prevent youth from accessing cannabis;
- prevent organized crime from continuing to profit from the illegal cannabis market; and
- protect public health and safety by setting rules for adults to access quality-controlled cannabis by creating a new, tightly regulated supply chain.
Rules under the Cannabis Act
The Act sets the rules for controlling the production, distribution, use, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. For example, under the Act, adults who are 18 years or older (depending on the province or territory) can legally:
- possess up-to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public;
- share up-to 30 grams with other adults;
- purchase fresh and dried cannabis, and cannabis oils from authorized provincial or territorial retailers;
- grow for personal use up-to 4 plants per residence (not per person) from licensed seeds or seedlings; and
- make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.
Protecting the health and safety of Canadians
The Act also contains regulations aimed at protecting the health and safety of Canadians. Under the Act, legal cannabis products:
- may only be sold through retailers authorized and licensed by provincial or territorial governments;
- must have an excise stamp which appears in different colours for each province and territory and contains security features to prevent forgery, similar to passports and paper currency; and
- must carry the standardized cannabis symbol and mandatory health warning messages regarding the risks associated with the use of cannabis.
What is illegal under the Act?
Under the Act, it is illegal to:
- drive while impaired by cannabis
- take cannabis across the Canadian border, whether you’re leaving or coming to Canada, and regardless of what the cannabis laws are in the other country
- sell the cannabis grown at home to others; you must be authorized by Health Canada and have a license to grow cannabis for sale
Cannabis edibles not yet legal
Cannabis edibles and concentrates are not yet legal for purchase and sale in Canada. They will be legal approximately October 17, 2019 one year after the Cannabis Act came into force. This is to allow federal regulations to be developed.
How is the Act regulated?
The federal, provincial and territorial, and municipal governments share implementation and regulation of the new Act.
The Federal Government is responsible for creating:
- requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis,
- licensing of producers,
- industry-wide rules and standards, such as:
- types of cannabis products
- packaging and labelling requirements
- standardized serving sizes and potency
- prohibitions on the use of certain ingredients
- good production practices
- tracking requirements from seed to sale
- restrictions on promotional activities
Provincial and territorial responsibilities
Each province and territory is responsible for the rules and guidelines of the distribution and sale of cannabis in their jurisdiction.
This includes deciding:
- the legal minimum age (can be greater than 18 – the federal requirement)
- how cannabis can be sold
- where stores can be located and how they must be operated
- where cannabis can be used in public
- how much someone can possess (can be lower than the federal limit)
- requirements on personal cultivation (can be lower than federal limit)
Municipalities may also share responsibility with their province and/or the federal government regarding:
- cannabis education
- retail locations and rules
- public consumption
The Act and criminal offences
The Act also addresses the legal consequences of not following the new law. Specifically, the Act sets out:
- criminal penalties ranging from ticketing to up-to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for the illegal possession, production, distribution, and sale of cannabis;
- serious criminal penalties for those who sell or provide cannabis to youth; and
- a new offence and strict penalties for those who use youth to commit a cannabis offence.
For more information, refer to the topic Criminal offences and penalties under the Cannabis Act.
Cannabis for medical purposes
Under the Act, access to cannabis for medical purposes will continue for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider.
For more information on the laws regarding the sale and distribution of cannabis in your province, refer to the topic Provincial cannabis law.
For legal advice and assistance with a cannabis related matter, contact our preferred cannabis law expert, Harrison Jordan Law .
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