Cannabis becomes legal in Canada

Adults in Canada are now able to legally buy and possess up to 30g of dried cannabis or its equivalent from authorised retailers across the country. After ‘extensive consultation’ with law enforcement agencies and health organisations, the Canadian government has implemented its legal framework to legalise and regulate access to the drug.

Adults in Canada are now able to legally buy and possess up to 30g of dried cannabis.

The legislation, which was first announced at the UNGASS in New York in 2016 (DDN, May 2016, page 4), aims to ‘keep profits from going into the pockets of criminal organisations and street gangs’, says the government, and makes Canada the second – and largest – country to legalise the drug after Uruguay (DDN, May 2017, page 4). ‘The old approach to cannabis did not work,’ the government states. ‘It let criminals and organised crime profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it has been easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes.’

While the Cannabis Act means that possession of small amounts of the drug is no longer against the law, the government has created a new criminal offence making it illegal to sell cannabis to a minor and has ‘added significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences’. It has also toughened laws relating to drink- and drug-impaired driving.

People need to be 18 – or 19, depending on the territory – to legally buy, possess or use cannabis, with legal drugs displaying an excise stamp on the product label. However, anyone either bringing cannabis or cannabis products into – or taking them out of – the country still risks ‘serious criminal penalties’, the government states, including if the drug is being used for medical purposes. Central and provincial government will also continue a programme of public education about the new legal framework, as well as responsible use, health and safety, and the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

New criminal offences have been added making it illegal to sell cannabis to a minor.

‘The implementation of this progressive public policy marks an important shift in our country’s approach to cannabis,’ said justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould. ‘With a strictly regulated market for adults we will help keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and profits out of the pockets of criminals. Along with new laws and regulations on cannabis, our government has also implemented stronger laws on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. I am very proud that Canada now has one of the toughest impaired driving regimes in the world.’

‘While we still have a lot of work to do, we are confident that the more than two years of work that went into this process have resulted in legislation that will help us achieve our public health and safety objectives,’ added border security minister Bill Blair.