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What are the laws around marijuana use in Canada?

Many people may be confused whether or not marijuana is still illegal in Canada, since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that all forms of medical marijuana were legal.

Currently possession of marijuana is still illegal. However, the federal government has promised to roll out legalization laws in 2017 that will legalize marijuana but with several stipulations.

Though the law currently outlaws the use of marijuana, the use of medical marijuana is permitted as long as the regulations around medical marijuana are observed.

The law

Several sections in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act deal with prohibitions on the owning and selling of marijuana. These prohibitions are set out in Schedule II of the act. The act itself is a federal drug control act that repealed the Narcotics Act in 1996, and substituted it.

Under the act, it is set out that anyone who owns or traffics in marijuana is guilty of a serious (indictable) offense.

Penalties for marijuana possession which are currently still valid are pretty steep.

Producing the plant can see people face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and minimum penalties for six months and more, depending on how many plants are produced. 

For example, if the number of plants produced is more than five but less than 201, then the minimum punishment for the offense upon conviction is six months in prison.

If, however, the number of plants produced exceeds 500 in number then the minimum prison term a person can receive is two years.

For possession of marijuana, the minimum sentence a person can get is a fine of up to $1,000 or a prison term of up to six months. The maximum a person can receive is five years.

Trafficking carries a much steeper sentence than mere possession as a person could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The exception

The law makes an exception for the possession of medical marijuana though it is strictly regulated.

As of August 24, 2016 people are allowed to grow a limited amount of marijuana but they have to register with Health Canada.

It is legal to sell or possess medical marijuana, according to the law, as long as:

  • The person who is growing their own medical marijuana is only growing it in a limited amount as prescribed by the law and Health Canada;
  • Someone grows it on behalf of the medical marijuana user in the prescribed limited amount but that person has to undergo a background check showing they haven't been convicted of a drug offence in the last 10 years; 
  • The seller of marijuana is a licensed producer who has to follow a strict list of guidelines; and
  • The buyer has been subscribed medical marijuana by a healthcare practitioner and presents proof of authority to possess marijuana for medical purposes.

There is also currently a limit as to how much medical marijuana a person is allowed to possess.

What changes are coming?

The government announced recently that it will unveil legislation that legalizes marijuana in early 2017.

However with that announcement the government has also said that it would see to it that is not legal for use by children and that it not be used for criminal profit.

Until such time as the federal government introduces the new legislation and sets a date for the new law to take effect, marijuana will remain illegal in Canada.

If you have been charged with an offense relating to marijuana you should consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Possession of Marijuana

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act